Errigal Training Centre, based in Falcarragh, is unique to the island of Ireland. It is the only accredited GWO (Global Wind Organisation) facility that provides a full service offering of training safety modules across a wide range of energy sectors. It is the brainchild of Frankie Veldman, who has a lifetime experience in this field. There is a great story behind this state of the art facility, the choice of location and big plans on the horizon for the centre, as Frankie explains.
So what is it that makes Errigal Training Centre different?
‘’As well as providing a one-stop shop for health and safety training, our location and service offering is unique. We want to welcome people in through our doors, treat them like VIPs and make sure they come back. Simple really!’’ explains Frankie.
Frankie is a born and bred Letterkenny man and has taken the scenic route to Falcarragh. Working a lot in the North Sea, he has also spent time in Norway, Myanmar and the Middle East, largely in the energy (oil and gas) sector. Early on in his career he moved into the area of Health and Safety, something Frankie is very passionate about. Looking around the facility in Falcarragh, his passion is evident in every aspect of the building, from the entrance to the training pool.
Some might question why one would choose a location perceived as remote, to set-up. However Frankie and his wife Noreen saw their location as another unique selling point. Noreen is a native of Dungloe and works in Finance & Compliance whilst supporting Frankie’s vision in her spare time.
‘’Being based in the heart of the Donegal Gaeltacht area is ideal for us, close to the coast and within easy travel distance for a lot of our customers. Local amenities are very important. When people come for a week they can avail of the many activities available locally such as surfing, beach walks, hiking and golfing. Not having to fight your way through traffic or spend hours in traffic jams makes our location attractive and of course being 30 minutes from Donegal Airport is very convenient for our delegates,’’ outlines Frankie.
The idea of a training facility indirectly becoming a tourist attraction may appear unlikely, however Frankie explains that people travel from all over Ireland and beyond to train here.
‘’The one comment that staff continuously receive is how beautiful and scenic it is here. We had a Frenchman attend a course during the summer who has lived in Galway for 18 years and previously never been to Donegal. After an evening hike on Errigal he immediately made plans for his family to have a Donegal staycation next Summer.’’
Errigal Training Centre was set-up in February 2020 just before Covid-19 hit. This certainly proved to be a challenge in the short-term, with no income as training couldn’t be held virtually. However the pandemic also gave Frankie and his wife Noreen a chance to get the building kitted out to the exact specification it needed to be.
‘’It also helped us to be clear in our future focus, we want to have a lot more accreditations and ultimately be a ‘One Stop Shop’ for the Renewables, Marine and Oil & Gas Sectors.’’
Errigal Training Centre has three full-time staff, and a pool of experienced contractors who work closely with them. All instructors are highly experienced in their fields and they have also been recruited locally which was a ‘’pleasant surprise’’ for Frankie to have so much experience available in Donegal. While the centre attracts custom from far and wide, the local market in Donegal and nearby Northern Ireland is particularly important.
‘’In the past most of the young people from around here would have travelled to Scotland or further afield to complete their training. Now they can train in Donegal before potentially travelling abroad to develop their skills further.’’
Frankie is very aware of the rapidly evolving focus of global energy. Unsurprisingly with such a focus on climate change and clean energy, the demand is very high for training support in this area.
‘’The establishment of offshore wind farms is going to be a major growth area for Ireland over the next decade and we are perfectly positioned to be part of and support this growing industry. We will continue to develop our capabilities so that we can provide the opportunity for an exciting and rewarding career path to anyone who visits Errigal Training Centre.’’