Make the future better by design

John Mathers explains why the energy industry sorely needs the skills of design engineers.

[image_library_tag 6a832f99-aa16-49f3-93c8-20607c44d186 200×200 alt=” ohn athers chief executive esign ouncil” width=”200″ border=”0″ ] John Mathers, chief executive, Design Council

According to EU Skills, some of the hardest jobs to fi ll in the utilities industry today include: site managers, project managers, power systems engineers, commissioning engineers, overhead linespeople, substation engineers and, interestingly, design engineers. This is concerning because energy networks are becoming smarter and more complex, which is precisely when design skills come to the fore.

Skilled design engineers play a vital role in the infrastructure of energy supply. At its most obvious, they design, develop and maintain the power grids that serve the country. However, design engineers also have a major role in dayto-day delivery – their technical expertise in prioritising, planning and decision making affects the entire supply chain.
Fundamentally, the designer’s raison d’etre is to improve things. In the energy sector, they design networks and hardware that could be in service for decades, their task is to pre-empt tomorrow’s problems and fi nd solutions for today.
The current electrical workforce is ageing, and there currently aren’t enough recruits to fill their shoes. The loss of more specialist and creative engineering skills, including design, could derail the government’s plans for growth and increasing productivity.
The Design Council preaches the direct effects of design training and coaching in achieving both 
of these goals in its work with hundreds of SMEs and local authorities. It is now essential for the energy industry to train and upskill its workforce.
In 2016/17 we will be undertaking research into design skills being used in industry, as well as collecting industry views on the skills required for the future. I’m sure it will uncover some fascinating results and some motivating and practicable solutions to what is a potential problem for the UK economy.


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