Northern Gas Networks joins forces with industry to address energy and utility skills gap

The North of England’s gas distributer, Northern Gas Networks (NGN) has joined forces with energy and utilities businesses, including Northumbrian Water and Northern Powergrid to launch a strategy aimed at filling the sector’s future skills gap.

The energy and utilities sector requires 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. Industry leaders have come together, as the Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership, to build and launch the first ever joint Workforce Renewal and Skills Strategy for the sector.

The Strategy has been created to take the first steps towards ensuring that the UK’s vital energy and utilities sector retains a safe, skilled, resilient and sustainable workforce.  It sets out for the first time, in one place, the reality of the challenges faced, immediate initiatives that are underway and the ambitions the Skills Partnership shares in moving towards achieving a more sustainable future. This Strategy sets its immediate focus to 2020, and then will continue to evolve as the Skills Partnership and the wider industry works with our key stakeholders, interest groups and other sectors to deliver an extensive programme of change and cooperation.

Mark Horsley, Chief Executive of Northern Gas Networks, which is part of the partnership, said:

“Being part of the Energy and Utilities Skills Partnership and supporting the Workforce Renewal and Skills Strategy provides a powerful platform to collectively address the long-term workforce challenges we face.

“Our industry is going through a period of great change as we look for new ways to improve efficiency and pave the way for secure, affordable, low carbon forms of energy. The sector relies on a high level of technical expertise, so it’s vital that we recruit and develop the right people with the right skills, both now and in the future.

“At Northern Gas Networks we’re continually evolving our workforce to ensure that we can adapt to the rapidly changing needs of our customers, assessing the skills and capabilities we need for a sustainable future.

“Our apprenticeship programme continues to thrive, providing a launch pad for new talent and we deliver employability and education programmes for students of all stages of academia, focusing strongly on under-represented STEM subjects to inspire and educate about future careers in the industry.

“At the heart of it all is people and we’re focused on making our business a great place to work to ensure we have a contented workforce, inspired to make a difference.”

Nick Ellins, the Chief Executive of Energy & Utility Skills, who will manage the Strategy on behalf of the energy and utilities industry, 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.

“The Energy & 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.

“The Skills Partnership now wishes to engage the whole industry in tackling the issues uncovered and work with central and devolved government, regulators and key interest groups to build initiatives that can address 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.”

Tony Cocker, Chief Executive of E.ON UK and Chair of the Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership, said: “Our sector touches the lives of almost everyone in the UK each day, providing essential services for our homes and businesses. 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.

“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.

“It is key that businesses across our sector work together to raise the profile of the issues and recommendations outlined in the strategy and, ultimately, encourage and support more people, whatever their background, into training and long-term career opportunities in the energy and utilities industry.”

The Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership has already started to take action – including a commitment from 20 utility-based businesses to a new 12-month pilot programme that seeks to encourage people into industry careers and develop a significant future sector talent pool. The Talent Source Network aims to help employers access hard-to-reach and diverse individuals as well as encourage professionals who are looking for new opportunities or to retrain. Service leavers and those with transferable skills from adjacent sectors such as oil and gas will find the utility environment a natural home and are already a target audience of the pilot programme. To find out more visit www.talentsourcenetwork.co.uk