The demand for power is rising, amidst ongoing skills shortages in transmission and distribution. We need to shout about our successes to attract more women, career changers and apprentices, says Laura Hatfield, recruitment consultant at Samuel Knight International.
In the next few years the industry will be facing an exodus of skills. According to energy company, SSE plc, around 50 per cent of the sector's workforce is predicted to retire by 2023. With such a big loss of talent expected in the near future, we must act now to replenish the number of professionals.
To do this, it's essential to increase the amount of apprentices, graduates and women entering the field, and also to encourage career movers to consider a profession in transmission and distribution (T&D).
Without the help of both genders in combatting the skills shortage, development will simply be far too slow. For too long now, women have faced barriers in the industry. Unconscious bias has led to women not having equal opportunities, and rigid working hours have meant that many have been forced to choose between a career and raising a family. Outdated stereotypes of the sector being male-dominated and old-fashioned have also led to T&D slipping off graduates' radar, and this is something that we can't afford.
Recently, transmission and distribution has been gaining a lot of investment from the UK government. With the exponential growth in renewables, there has also been a massive increase in cables and electrical substations too. The booming T&D industry is now rife with opportunities, and there has never been a better time for women to join.
There are already a lot of people eager to get involved, with many professionals from the oil and gas sector keen to make a move over to transmission and distribution. Thankfully, there is no shortage of roles available. What makes T&D so attractive to women, however, is that it's perfect for people with transferable skills.
Solving the sector's skills shortage will certainly be no easy or overnight task, but by altering policies to be more accommodating to women, removing bias and debunking stereotypes, we can start seeing more female talent walk through the door.
To have access to a wider talent pool, we must first get rid of the idea that energy and utilities is just for men. We can end this stereotype by making noise about the latest technological advancements that are helping to elevate workers' lives and the fantastic work that women do in the sector.
Employers play an important role in addressing this stereotype too. They need to have a strategic workforce plan in place to see when female employees are ready to be promoted and moved into higher positions, and then be publicly vocal about such moves. Having more women in the boardroom and in power will likely motivate others to reach their full potential too. Hiring managers must also look beyond previous roles, or years of experience, and instead judge candidates on their ability to do the job.
There must also be flexible working practices in place. As more smart companies realise the benefits that flexi-hours and remote working have on increasing diversity, we are seeing an uptick in those ensuring this is a staple in their offering.
By creating a more diverse and inclusive environment, not only can we create true equality, but also ensure that the UK remains a leading competitor in the Transmission and distribution industry. Countless studies have proven time and again the positive impact women have on the workplace and on profits. So, by prioritising this, we can end the skills shortage and ensure businesses thrive.