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Friday, 01 August 2014

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New energy boss to plug skills gap

AN organisation charged with revitalising the Cumbrian coast has a new leader.

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TAKING CONTROL: Steven Szostak is the new CEO of Britain’s Energy Coast PAUL JOHNSON REF: 50040656T002

Steve Szostak has been named as Britain’s Energy Coast’s new chief executive.

56-year-old Mr Szostak will take over the company as he seeks to put a blueprint for development in West Cumbria into action.

Steven has spent 20 years running several economic development and business support partnership operations including Doncaster Central Development Trust and Business Link Bradford and District Ltd as well as holding regeneration-related positions at spanning urban and rural issues at Leeds City Council, Cambridgeshire County Council and Craven District Council.

He has also edited three documentaries including Changing Places for BBC TV which celebrated mixed cultures in Bradford as part of the Eid celebrations of 2004.

Mr Szostak has said his role is to help bridge the skills gap between opportunities emerging in West Cumbria and the capabilities of the workforce.

He will preside over BEC in an era when West Cumbria itself is facing a potential £90bn nuclear opportunity, he says, including two or three new reactors, a new grid connection, new spent fuel facility, new Mox plant, and new disposal facility.

He said: “We know there is going to be a growth in demand for well-paid opportunities and that industry needs certain skills. We must narrow the gap between industry need and local skills on offer.

“What we don’t want is unemployed plasterers sitting at home watching a minibus full of plasterers coming in from away when they could have done the job themselves.”

Mr Szostak said he feels strongly about protecting the existing skills in West Cumbria while hoping to attract people with fresh skills into the area.

Coming from a regeneration background Mr Szostak also sees a strong social benefit from the blueprint in terms of closing the gap between the haves and the have nots.

He added: “There is something wrong when we have areas on Britain’s Energy Coast coming out at the wrong end of government indices on fuel poverty. We have got to do something about that.

“I’d hope at the end of my time in this job that [the level of fuel poverty] is no longer the case.”

Mr Szostak is keen to continue to build that profile with projects which “turn heads”. “If it’s to do with energy and it’s the world’s best, it’s got to be here,” he says. “We have an important selling job to do.

For a full interview with Mr Szostak and outgoing acting executive Tom Gilroy don’t miss the next edition of Britain’s Energy Coast, published in the Evening Mail next Tuesday.

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