Thousands of vacancies are expected to emerge in the gas, water, electricity and waste management industries in the next decade, with an increasing demand for advanced engineering and technical skills.
With a good proportion of the 13,000 people that leave the armed forces every year possessing those and other highly sought-after skills, service leavers have been described as a “rich talent pool.”
This statement was made in the Workforce Renewal & Skills Strategy, which was written by the leaders of 27 energy and utilities companies, and released earlier this year. Key among its findings was that nearly 200,000 of the sector’s 500,000 UK-wide workforce will leave by 2027. This could have major implications for the continued seamless delivery of the essential services the sector provides to 65 million people every day.
As a whole, the sector is the largest single contributor to the National Infrastructure Delivery Plan, delivering 56% of the half a trillion pound investment. It plays a key role in narrowing the productivity gap between the UK and its international competitors. Delivering that level of commitment for society and the economy will take a resilient, sustainable and highly skilled workforce.
To help attract new talent to the sector, 20 leading employers have come together to create the Talent Source Network initiative, offering job and training opportunities, plus career security and the potential to progress.
Former aircraft engineer, Mike Clark was unsure what to do next when deciding to leave the military. He signed up to Talent Source Network, looking for an opportunity in smart metering. Now a Smart Metering Expert at British Gas in the North West, he’s recommending fellow service leavers also consider a career in energy and utilities.
“I wouldn’t have thought about going into this sector. Talent Source Network opened new doors for me. I didn’t want to work in an office. I like having my own van and going to different properties, it suits my personality.
Having a well-paid job behind you helps get things on track. My life is pretty much perfect. I wouldn’t change anything. I was signed up to Talent Source Network and didn’t think anything of it. I would look every so often, saw this (opportunity) and it’s worked out. It is something that helps service leavers – definitely. If I was leaving the military now and someone offered this money and this training – I would snatch their hand off.
“I feel I have been lucky. It offers a good wage, job satisfaction and it’s about following a strict protocol, which everyone in the military should be used to. Energy could be the perfect sector for them.”
The sector employers listed areas where there is potential to transfer skills, in the Workforce Renewal & Skills Strategy:
- Safety Behaviour
- Accurate/ methodical approach
- Discipline and rigour/ ability to follow processes
- Time management
- Problem Solving
The sector was also the first post-services step for Shropshire’s Ben Mitchelmore. Now a permanent Smart Engineering Technician at E.ON, he specialised in communications during his eight-year stint in the army, built on his experience and learned new skills through an apprenticeship.
“I completed a one-year course that was made up of classroom study and on the job learning. I was 32 when I left the army and started my apprenticeship, so not the typical age people usually associate with an apprentice. However, I’ve met people of all ages and backgrounds undertaking an E.ON apprenticeship and the whole experience has been something that I would recommend to anyone looking for a change of career.”
“The apprenticeship met my expectations and gave me the opportunity to earn while I learned, while working towards future career opportunities in an industry that’s continually growing in terms of innovation and technology.”
Suzanne Beavin from Wiltshire was another who graduated from the army into a sector apprenticeship. Now an Overhead Linesperson at Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN), she said: “Companies like seeing the armed forces on your applications – the idea of rigour and discipline appeals to them,” and agreed that an apprenticeship is a definite option for those finishing their service and considering what steps to take next.
She noted that the dedication and excellent teamwork skills are among the qualities SSEN and the sector are calling for: “The apprenticeship has just been the start, I’m looking forward now to a long and interesting career within the industry.”
Nick Ellins is the Chief Executive of Energy & Utility Skills, the expert voice on sector workforce matters, which was the driving force behind the publication of the Skills Strategy. He said: “The sector is taking an inclusive approach to attract and retain talent through collaborative initiatives like Talent Source Network. Collaboration for the good of the sector underpins the ethos of the Skills Strategy, which calls on governments, regulators and other key stakeholders to work in partnership with employers to address the sector’s skills challenges.
“The energy and utilities sector needs highly motivated people with transferable skills to build our workforce. Service leavers are a ‘rich talent pool’ with the technical skills, professional drive and personal determination that sector employers are looking for.
“The sector provides vital services that the whole of modern society relies on to function and as such offers varied and rewarding careers. Many ex-servicewomen and men are enjoying their new lives as civilians working in our sector and so I would encourage others to consider joining them.”
Technical Skill sets required in the energy and utilities sector:
- Dual fuel gas/ electrical engineers (fitting and engineering)
- Gas operations/ team leader – supply chain
- Project management
- Future – rapid response engineers
- Electrical design
- Project management
- DNO/ high voltage experience
- Substation maintenance
- Overhead lines/ working at heights
Waste and water
- Energy recovery facilities and engineering
- Electrical – sub mariners
- HGV – CPC qualified
- Electrical installation and engineering
- Mains/ service layers
- Future – new technologies
- Leadership/ management
- Health and safety awareness
- Project management
- Process engineering
The sector is looking to have more impact with service leavers by working in a consistent and co-ordinated way through initiatives like the Career Transition Partnership, the official Ministry of Defence provider of resettlement support, to ensure appropriate training is in place.
Sign up to talentsourcenetwork.co.uk for more on the sector opportunities.
This article first appeared in Pathfinder International and has been reproduced here with its kind permission.
Pictured: Ben Mitchelmore of E.ON