AN ECO-TRAINING hub described as the first of its kind in Britain was officially opened by First Minister Carwyn Jones yesterday.

The British Gas Green Skills Training Centre in Tredegar aims to train over 1,300 people in new energy efficient technologies.

Engineers get the chance to learn how to install equipment such as solar panels, hi-tech smart metres, biomass boilers and combined heat and power boilers in purpose built training bungalows.

The centre, part of the British Gas Energy Academy at Tredegar Business Park, cost British Gas £900,000 with the Assembly contributing £500,000.

It is hoped the project will help the Assembly’s programme to improve 40,000 homes in the Heads of the Valley’s region.

Gearold Lane, British Gas managing director of communities and new energy, said the site was the first of its kind in Britain.

"It’s important to Tredegar as its an area of high unemployment and in need for regeneration, but its also important as the Welsh Assembly has high targets on reducing carbon emissions," he said Carwyn Jones said the scheme was important as Wales needed highly skilled people to attract highly skilled jobs.

"This is a community in the Valleys that for so many years was at the forefront of the industrial revolution and of energy through the production of coal," he said.

"The challenge for us is to develop skills and to endeavour to be at the forefront of the energy production of the future."

The centre will work in conjunction with local jobs agencies such as JobsMatch, and it is hoped the centre can help many long term unemployed people return to work.

David Thomas, 52, of Ebbw Vale, was out of work for a year before he completed a three-day course in energy awareness at the centre.

"I think I stand a good chance of finding a job within the green technology industry, I've already started applying for jobs so fingers crossed," he said.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Green light for jobs boost

IT IS apt that Tredegar has been chosen to house the British Gas Green SkillsTraining Centre, the first of its kind in the UK.

This centre, which is the result of a partnership between the Welsh Assembly government, JobMatch, Jobcentre plus, SummitSkills and Blaenau Gwent council, will specifically target the long-term unemployed for retraining.

It is no secret that Tredegar has among the highest unemployment rates in the country, so local people should be among the first to benefit.

The centre will also enable existing British Gas engineers to bring their skills up to date for dealing with new technologies, all in a state-of-the-art centre.

Having such a high quality centre as this in its midst can only be a catalyst for good for the whole area.

The centre will train 1,300 people a year. They will be taught the skills needed to become energy-efficiency assessors and installers of new technologies, immediately helping Wales achieve the Assembly's goal of being a low carbon economy.

As such the Assembly has invested £500,000 towards the cost of the scheme which was officially opened by First Minister Carwyn Jones.

Tredegar, once at the heart of heavy industry seems destined for a place at the forefront of new technologies which could benefit us all and that has to be welcome.