The water industry in the UK makes up a directly employed population of 127,000 and an indirectly employed population (through sub contracts, ancillary activity and product delivery) of a further 86,200.

The Water Industry

The industry is facing a wide range of multifaceted challenges to ensure the long-term resilience of both water and sewerage services. A resilient water industry is vital for the health and wellbeing of the population and the security of the UK in terms of the environment and economy.

The water industry a major employer and trainer across the UK due to the variety of roles and the regulatory need to demonstrate robust governance.

Our health, wealth creation and quality of life depend on water, the most precious natural resource, essential for life in the UK and as such water provision is heavily scrutinised.

The water industry uses up to three per cent of the total energy used in the UK and to meet climate change objectives, water companies are moving towards delivering further distributed generation, with a new set of skills required to operate and maintain renewable energy systems.

The industry is heavily regulated with economic, environmental, quality and customer service bodies with the sole focus on the sector across the UK. The industry is regulated to meet increasingly stringent water quality, environmental, operational and customer standards.

The water sector is much larger than just the water companies in the UK, with framework contractors, contracted providers and others, such as plumbers (98,000) working on private potable water systems. With an annual turnover of £11bn each year and with 65 million citizens and most industry dependent on it, the water industry is critical to the UK economy.

Water Industry Demographics

Our Work

Energy & Utility Skills works across the UK to ensure the water sector has a competent, resilient and sustainable workforce. As an expert voice in workforce renewal strategy and assuring competence we work with UK policy makers, regulator, regulated water business, new entrants to the sector plus the vital delivery partners to inform UK-wide workforce and skills policy, strategy and legislation.

The water industry is currently facing major infrastructure and operational demands. Changes in the availability of skills and capacity in the labour market present potential resilience issues for water companies, supply chain and other partners. Workforce resilience is now a requirement of corporate and operational resilience within price setting and is an embedded requirement of business planning with the Ofwat PR19 Final Methodology. Energy & Utility Skills has also published a dashboard of key labour market metrics to help keep companies informed about trends in the labour market so they can plan and manage appropriately.

The Workforce Renewal Challenge

  • For AMP6 46% of the workforce is estimated to leave through retirement or staff turnover
    • Retirements increase by about 50% from 2016 to 2024
    • 16% of the regulated and 4% of the tier 1 contractor workforce retire in next five years
    • 18% of the regulated workforce and 64% of the tier 1 contractor workforce turnover in next five years
    • By 2024 the English/Welsh water companies will have needed to replace (by volume) their entire workforce
    • Of 329,000 HE leavers in 2013/14 only 2,200 joined the utilities sector – over half of these in power
    • Water had the lowest number of utility apprenticeship starts and completions in 2013/14
    • 96% of apprentice starts were male

Strategic Partnerships

Our strategic partnerships for the water industry operate across the UK, encompassing policy makers, regulators, the regulated and their critical delivery partners. We work with Water UK, British Water, Future Water Association and the Institute of Water to ensure our members’ concerns are voiced at the highest levels. We work closely with these bodies and the four key utility unions – Unison, Unite, Prospect and GMB – to raise issues and work to develop solutions which benefit the UK industry as a whole.


Our work centres around the important role of skills. Our 80 members enable us to bring together the sector to identify and address the skills challenges we face. Our work has been recognised by Ofwat who reference the importance of workforce resilience and sustainability within their ‘Resilience in the round’ report.

“A workforce with the right skills is vital for a resilient water sector. The challenges we now face mean that the sector must pay even more attention to the long-term skills it will need and the ways in which they will differ from the needs of the past. That’s why we welcome the first Energy and Utilities Workforce and Skills Strategy and we encourage water companies to work together with their workforce to successfully transition to the water company of the future.”

Cathryn Ross, former Chief Executive, Ofwat

We have supported our members with the implementation and bedding in of the Apprenticeship Levy in England and continue to provide expert advice and analysis across the UK. We work closely with each industry we represent to ensure the schemes and standards are in place to train the talent needed and aid transferability of skills within the sector.

Schemes and Programmes

For more information about the Schemes and Programmes we operate in the Industry please visit our Water Schemes and Programmes page.

Find Out More

For more information about our work in the water industry, our products and services or the benefits of membership, get in touch with Lucy Ritchie or Denise McGlynn by emailing enquiries@euskills.co.uk.


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