There are few industries that will be as transformative as the energy and utilities sectors in the coming years, and even fewer with such a stark skills challenge.
In the three months since starting the journey with GFM Education’s renewable, utilities and energy apprenticeship offer, I have been fortunate to speak with many stakeholders in the sector. It is clear that all parties are aware of the skills gaps but many (not all) are focused heavily on today’s operations and kicking the proverbial can down the road. The reasons behind this are varied, with some openly stating they need to deliver short term results. In Isolation this is certainly not a negative as businesses need to perform and shareholders are needed for investment and growth. However, by not acting now, those returns will suffer in the years to come and the UK will lag behind the drive to Net Zero.
There is also concern that decarbonisation will lead to wide-ranging job cuts in the sector which will harm communities, with parallels being drawn to the significant ramifications from the collapse of the mining industry. Coincidentally, the leader of the opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, has today made a speech on this very point to reassure communities. For better or worse, employers are less community-centric and travelling for work is easier and more accepted in modern Britain, lessening the potential impact. Furthermore, the National Grid estimates that 400,000 new jobs will be required to meet the increased demand for energy and the Net Zero. Of those 400,000 roles, 260,000 will be new (equivalent to 35% of the current energy workforce) and the remaining 140,000 will be required to replace retirees (PWC: The Energy Transition and Jobs 2022).
It is, therefore that Government, Utility, Energy and Training providers need to come together and develop a cohesive plan to train new entrants and retrain people from job roles where demand will reduce.
A shift to decentralisation and localism in skills, whilst admirable in its aim, is not fit for purpose for a national issue. Additional bureaucracy and associated hoop-jumping will limit training options, agility of the sector and hinder innovation and ultimately the drive to Net Zero.
Until we have a cohesive strategy, I urge companies in the Energy and Utilities sectors to engage with providers to build a long-term plan for their skills requirements. Let’s look past what is needed now and build for the decade ahead.
Guest Blog from Craig Mincher