Utility sector collaborates to close 277,000 workforce gap

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UTILITY industry leaders have joined forces to form Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership, which seeks to launch the 2020-2025 Workforce Renewal and Skills Strategy.

The sector, central to achieving Net Zero carbon targets and providing essential services to over 66 million homes, is facing labour market demands and skills challenges that will require 277,000 people over the next decade.

Nick Ellins, Chief Executive, Energy & Utility Skills commented on the partnership launch: “The Workforce Renewal and Skills Strategy continues to provide a framework that everyone in the utility sector can work within and aims to secure successful UK-wide skills provision for the next five years.

“By working together through this voluntary alliance, the Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership have led the way and they now call on the whole industry to help in tackling the issues set out, and to work with central and devolved governments, regulators and key interest groups to continue building these initiatives and meet the skills challenge.

“By working together, we can ensure a highly skilled, safe and productive workforce that ultimately invests directly back into society and our communities.”

The strategy builds on the 2017 publication and outlines the urgent actions required by the sector, policy makers, employers and regulators to help mitigate the impending workforce crisis.

The strategy acknowledges that we are operating in changed times.

The impact of COVID-19, Net Zero carbon targets, exiting the European Union, increased competition for skills with other high-profile sectors and the divergent skills policy across the four nations, makes the skills challenge very real and urgent.

The baby boomer generation are all aged 55 and over, indicating that 27% of the workforce will retire in the next decade leaving the sector to recruit or retrain 48% of the current workforce which represents 277,000 vacancies over the next 10 years.

The skills and workforce issues are persistent; however, the sector remains committed to addressing three key strategies:

1. Sector attractiveness, recruitment and workforce diversity

2. Maximising investment in skills

3. Targeted action – to address anticipated skills gaps and shortages

Sophie Carvin, Academy Manager for Northumbrian Water Group, one of the members, added: “As part of the Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership we have a great opportunity to showcase the varied and exciting careers available within the utilities sector that support our communities and work towards achieving the industry sustainability and environmental goals.

“For example, the water industry has set a net zero target of 2030, and we at Northumbrian Water are aiming to achieve this goal by 2027 – 23 years ahead of the Government’s own ambition, so it’s a really exciting time to be in the sector.

“By working together we can attract people from diverse backgrounds and with different experiences to help us innovate and avoid future skills shortages.”