Skills strategy aims to catalyse infrastructure revolution

The utilities sector's first skills and workforce renewal strategy has been launched to safeguard essential services and delivery of the National Infrastructure Plan.

Skills strategy aims to catalyse infrastructure revolution

A group of 27 utilities employers have come together to form a skills partnership which has devised and launched a sector skills and workforce renewal strategy – the first of its kind.

The document sets out the key skills and labour challenges faced by the utilities industry as it seeks to maintain the delivery of essential services while also beginning work on the major national infrastructure projects identified in the National Infrastructure Plan.

Explaining the need for the strategy, Nick Ellins, chief executive of Energy and Utility Skills which has coordinated the group behind the document, said: “The National Infrastructure Plan is now widely recognised as forming the backbone of industrial strategy, and more than half (56%) of that plan is required to be delivered by the power, water, gas, wastewater and waste management industries.

“To date the accompanying infrastructure skills strategy has not explicitly recognised this critical contribution or done enough to ensure that the businesses involved have the right environment to ensure a sustainable and talented workforce exists.”

He added: “The Energy and Utilities Skills Partnership has come together to develop the first-ever workforce renewal and skills strategy, and construct a solid foundation for sector-wide collaboration.  This document begins the discussion, providing a framework that seeks to secure successful UK-wide skills provision through to 2020.”

Tony Cocker, chief executive of energy retailer Eon, who is also chair of Energy and Utility Skills also emphasized the urgent need for collaborative and structured sector action to address potentially debilitating shortfalls in talent and labour.

“Our sector touches the lives of almost everyone in the UK each day, providing essential services for our homes and businesses,” he said. “In order to deliver and continually develop these services, we need a skilled and sustainable workforce that can help businesses supply the UK’s power, fresh drinking water, safe sanitation, recycling and much more”.

However, Cocker warned: “We face an ageing workforce, increasing competition for talent with unemployment reaching its lowest recorded levels and a lack of proficient skills leading to over a third of vacancies being hard-to-fill. Therefore, as a partnership we seek to be the catalyst for change, sharing an ambition to achieve a more sustainable future.”

Energy and Utility Skills estimates that utilities employer will require 221,000 new recruits by 2027, in order to provide the essential services its customers seek and the infrastructure the UK needs for its economic growth.

Utility Week is among the sector organisations which has backed the creation of the new strategy, which can be read and downloaded here.

Other companies which contributed to the development of the strategy include: Anglian Water, British Gas, Eon, Electricity North West, National Grid, Northern Gas Networks, Northern Powergrid, Northumbrian Water, Scottish Power, Scottish Water, SGN, Pennon Group/South West Water, SSE, Sutton and East Surrey Water (acting for all water only companies and new entrants), Thames Water, UK Power Networks, Wales & West Utilities and Yorkshire Water. 

A version of this story first appeard on Network’s sister publication Utility Week.


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