The Energy & Utility Skills team are all now wholly working from home to meet the government guidance that is in place and our offices are closed until further notice, but the service provided continues through use of technology wherever possible, supported by a committed team:
- Registrations Schemes – With many company and private training centres closed and staff either home working or social distancing, we are working with employers, policy makers and regulators to find interim ways to deliver required high quality registration schemes via computer-based learning, distance learning and assessment. This includes finding pragmatic solutions for major public health protection initiatives, such as the National Water Hygiene Scheme
- Strategic workforce planning – Businesses across the UK’s infrastructure and essential services provision already knew well before the pandemic, that they must think for their human capital in the long-term; to deliver their 25-year sector strategies, multi-year business plans, licence obligations and their committed progress towards zero carbon. The current incident has further complicated the shape of the labour market and available workforce. Our team are working with member companies across the UK, to offer services that can bring a longer-term, strategic approach to talent attraction, retention and redeployment.
- Securing talent – The Energy & Utilities Jobs platform has continued to be available throughout the pandemic, explaining to displaced individuals across society, the diverse careers that exist within the gas, power, water and waste management industries. We will help people across the UK to see the options open to them for a career in utilities where they can make a positive contribution to customers, communities, the economy and the environment.
- Apprenticeship Levy – Whilst the pandemic has disrupted the apprenticeship system significantly and effectively stopped most Levy-paying employers from utilising the millions of pounds they pay in, HM Treasury continue to take the money each month with no concessions offered to date, other than to give extensions to certain consultations and reviews. Our team are working with utilities and supply chain partners across the UK through the Apprenticeship & Technical Education Advisory Group, to convene with policy makers, regulators and funding bodies and ensure a fair, sustainable and employer-led system emerges.
- Apprenticeship End Point Assessment – End point assessment of talent seeking to move from their apprenticeship into work has been heavily impacted by the pandemic requirements for social distancing and employers typically having to pause their programmes. Guidance from the responsible authorities remains very limited and no coordinated financial or business continuity support mechanisms have yet been announced. The Energy & Utilities Independent Assessment Service are keeping track of all the latest developments from government and are available to offer guidance and support across the ten Standards they are approved for.
- Labour market and skills policy tracking and analysis – By the start of the pandemic, the UK had reached its most constrained labour market point since records began, with the Prime Minister announcing that infrastructure would plan a lead role in driving a post-European economy and the Chancellor recognising the need to better understand the economic value of the UK’s human capital as a means for even more targeted investment. At the same time, skills policy became every more devolved and disconnected from central labour market policies and Industrial Strategy, every major business sector was declaring skills shortages, the National Infrastructure Plan for Skills moved to being five years out of date with the nations’ needs and the skills policy departments confining their thinking to adult education and learning. The Energy & Utility Skills policy team are assisting the member gas, power, water and waste management employers and stakeholders right across Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England to consider the value in a more coherent approach post-incident, and providing evidence to encourage a single UK labour market and workforce strategy.
- Changing utility procurement culture to increase skills investment – Through the guidance of the thirty utility-based employers and their senior leaders that form the Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership, the challenge was set as to whether procurement practices be leveraged to encourage investment in training and skills development across the supply chain? The answer to the question was yes, and the solution developed is the Procurement Skills Accord. The Energy & Utility Skills team has now completed the detailed audits of the near seventy asset owners and supply chain companies that are working together to drive a step-change in training investment through procurement and address targeted sector skills gaps and shortages. Once the COVID-19 incident allows, the major Procurement Skills Accord Awards will be presented to these leading companies. The initiative seeks to: Promote signing up to the Procurement Skills Accord through the supply chain; Promote relevant skills development across the supply chain through procurement; Continuously improve performance and; Monitor and report progress.
- Creating an inclusive workforce – Long before the pandemic, the UK utility sector had agreed that as a priority it should change the composition of its Boards, Executive Teams and the whole workforce, to bring greater diversity of thinking and grow businesses that better represent the communities they serve. Currently, our sector is not yet representative of the UK workforce for gender, BAME, disability, and under 24’s. Only 5% of the sector’s employees are from black, Asian or minority ethnic groups compared to 15% nationally. Most of our workforce is male and white. Energy & Utility Skills are continuing to work to deliver this priority across the incident, using alternative methods to convene employers and stakeholders from across the UK in pursuit of objectives that forty two utility-based organisations are now committed to through the audited inclusion commitment.
- Building the 2020-2025 Workforce Renewal & Skills Strategy – Beyond the pandemic, the UK utility businesses will take the lessons learned from a period of emergency operations and distance working, and apply them to many of the existing workforce challenges that still remain, as they seek to deliver the largest share of the £0.6 trillion National Infrastructure Plan, plus the recent budget commitments and major UK policy strategies for waste, energy and water. The Energy & Utility Skills team continue working with the thirty utility-based organisations and their CEO’s that form the Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership, to bring together the next five years of labour market and workforce requirements to launch the 2020-2025 Workforce Renewal & Skills Strategy in the summer.
Energy & Utility Skills Chief Executive Nick Ellins advised:
“The pandemic has rightly caused businesses to structure to manage the short-term impacts and focus their efforts and resources to ensure they can deal with unprecedented demands and wait out the storm. As soon as that storm starts to calm, the significant size of challenge and opportunity facing the environmental infrastructure sector will immediately reappear and with it the need to build a skilled, safe, diverse and sustainable workforce that is fully ready to go. Our efforts are focused to convene the industry, regulators, policy makers and wider interest groups to ensure that when UK plc is back open for business, the UK utilities sector is ready and able to retain its current talent and access the very best human capital available within UK labour market.”