Northern Gas Networks & Develop Training: Gas Engineering Partnership

Northern Gas Networks (NGN)

Northern Gas Networks (NGN) is responsible for managing the essential infrastructure necessary to deliver gas to 6.7 million individuals in the North East, Northern Cumbria, and much of Yorkshire. It maintains 37,000 kilometres worth of pipeline that supply homes and businesses in major cities such as Newcastle, Sunderland, Bradford, York, Hull, and Leeds, as well as in rural areas.

Millions of people rely upon NGN’s vast network of pipes to help feed their families and keep them warm, so maintaining the network is a vital responsibility that relies upon the knowledge and expertise of a well-trained and highly skilled workforce.

Develop Training is the UK’s leading accredited provider of compliance, technical, and safety training. It plays a crucial role in giving utility professionals the technical know-how necessary to fulfil the important roles that utility companies such as NGN require.

Developing the relationship with NGN

Develop and NGN began working together over six years ago in 2017, with Develop training its very first NGN delegate at its York training centre in January of that year.

Instead of merely offering set courses, Develop listened to NGN’s specific training needs, providing them with bespoke training programmes tailored to the needs of their gas engineers.

The two companies’ strong working relationship is based upon honest communication, with representatives meeting in person every four-to-six weeks to openly discuss their partnership and how both parties can improve further going forward.

This transparency was exemplified during the tendering process for Develop to acquire two NGN contracts in 2021/22. The tenders involved rigorous processes to ensure the right training provider was chosen to train NGN’s employees.

As all gas engineers need to be assessed using a Joint Emergency Training Set (JETSET), the provision of such a facility was a fundamental priority for NGN. Keen and able to satisfy this requirement, Develop guaranteed NGN that it would create the JETSET as part of the training offer.

With both parties benefitting from their existing partnership and inspired by the potential of future plans, it made sense to formalise and expand their relationship going forward. As a result, Develop was able to successfully win both NGN contracts.

Day to day relations between NGN and Develop

Following an initial induction at NGN, the gas engineers begin their training with Develop. After successfully completing courses such as Network Construction Operations Gas Level 1 (NCO1G), Level 2 Service Laying (NCO2GSL), and Level 2 Main Laying (NCO2GML), and NRSWA Street Works, they go out ‘on patch’ with their team leaders to gain valuable experience in the field.

These same delegates often then go on to up-skill and become team leaders themselves, which in turn helps to support the next wave of young professionals.

Since working with NGN, Develop has trained in excess of 6000 gas engineers, growing from just 249 in 2017 to almost 1,500 in 2022. Develop is on track to train over 1,500 NGN engineers (the most in any previous year) by the end of 2023 – a number which serves to exemplify the strength of the partnership.

In recent years the partnership has grown even further, with over 70 NGN employees also undertaking a JTL apprenticeship either on the Gas Network Craftsperson or Gas Network Operative pathway.

Additionally, Develop has recently supported NGN with its Managed Learner Programme, upskilling existing staff to a Level 3 Diploma in Engineering Maintenance over a period of 12 months.

Our partnership with NGN has always been a natural fit for us. Our expertise, particularly regarding specialised gas training in this case, really complements NGN’s needs when it comes to acquiring gas operatives. We understand that learning practical skills works best through a hands-on approach, so we make sure that delegates can get a real feel for their craft and experience real-life conditions in the field. It’s a relationship that has been built from the ground up over many years. Everyone at Develop is looking forward to continuing to work together.”

Nichola Kitching, Senior Account Manager at Develop Training

Training Terrace

As previously mentioned, the partnership between Develop and NGN is best demonstrated by their combined creation of the JETSET – a fully to-scale artificial street designed to safely recreate emergency response scenarios.

Known as ‘Training Terrace’, the purpose-built street, which includes model homes and shops, gives delegates an opportunity to test out their theoretical knowledge in a realistic but controlled environment. Here Develop’s trainers can simulate situations such as an emergency gas escape and assess the response of a real first call gas operative.

The street is also used for a wide variety of training, including high pressure water jetting, customer service, first aid, showcasing the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, emergency incident role-play, and even corporate social responsibilities such as spotting signs of abuse.

Each area offers a unique training environment that poses different risks and hazards to overcome when responding to gas incidents, such as deep excavation safety, cable avoidance, and operating in confined spaces.

NGN delegates aiming to acquire their Accredited Certification Scheme (ACS) qualification can first practice on the JETSET (such as during mock exams) before their final assessment, giving them a chance to test their skills ahead of time.

Since ‘Training Terrace’ opened in May 2023, over 160 NGN professionals, a mixture of those new to industry, apprentices, and experienced staff, have undergone either gas escape, confined space entry, or location and avoidance of underground apparatus training.

Develop worked closely with technical experts from NGN during the construction process, regularly consulting with them on the layout of the street and where best to locate appliances such as meter boxes during the final plan to ensure that ‘Training Terrace’ was successfully built to specification.

The street exemplifies the companies’ mutualistic relationship and their combined efforts to improve the quality of training that utility industry professionals receive.

A Northern Centre of Excellence for Utility Training

Fully trained gas engineers are central to NGN’s service, but gas training providers are difficult to come by in the North East of England. This is why Develop’s training centre, conveniently based in York, is particularly useful for NGN, both for its high-quality training and its unique offering of gas training right on its doorstep.

Develop’s York training centre recently underwent a full refurbishment worth £500,000. The vast renovations included a fresh canteen, new classrooms, and vastly improved practical training areas. Develop’s classrooms in particular encourage face-to-face interaction, allowing trainers to better connect with delegates and build relationships with them to unlock their full potential.

The centre’s newly refurbished facilities also include LV and HV workshops, as well as confined space facilities, gas distribution, and health and safety training areas.

In recent months, NGN has also made significant financial investments in the facilities at the training centre, contributing towards a purpose-built gas training building as well as the provision of specialised training equipment such as low-to-medium pressure gas rigs and gas tents. This demonstrates NGN’s confidence in the quality of delegates that Develop produces and highlights the strength of the relationship between the two companies in continuing to drive forward high-quality training provision for the utilities industry.

The training centre is located just next door to ‘Training Terrace’, meaning that NGN delegates can seamlessly move between theoretical training and practical application.

NGN appreciates the changes, as even improvements to communal areas such as canteens make a real difference on a day-to-day basis.

Together, the renovated centre and the innovative ‘Training Terrace’ has significantly improved the training and development opportunities on offer for NGN.

Given the vital importance of our gas network to so many people across the North of England, getting the right people with the right skills to maintain it is equally as important. It is reassuring for us to know that the gas operatives which Develop produces are of an especially high quality, and that we can rely on their expertise. NGN works with a range of training providers but nine times out of ten, we’ll send our delegates to Develop first, and if we need anything, we’ll call them – they go out of their way to find us the right fit. We’ve always had a productive relationship with Develop, and I know that people from both sides genuinely enjoy working with one another to achieve our shared goals for the future.”

Chris Adair, Training Manager at NGN

A shared passion for social and environmental responsibility

The relationship between Develop and NGN also exists on a more personal level too. Last year, the two companies sent several of their employees to Nakuru, Kenya, as part of a project to help improve the lives of remote communities in impoverished areas.

This involved installing utilities capable of delivering clean water and sanitation to five schools, setting up the facilities necessary to give them adequate sanitary systems, and facilitating more accessible education for local schoolchildren.

The trip was a life-changing experience for both the Develop and NGN teams that also enabled the communities to independently maintain the equipment and systems installed for decades to come.

Bespoke gas support and training for your organisation

Simply contact our Customer Service team on 0800 876 6708 or and one of our training specialists will get in touch to discuss your unique needs.

In the meantime, why not take a look at our full range of gas operative training courses, including NOC & SCO schemes?

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