Utilities have a “once in a generation” opportunity to make the sector a more attractive place for current and future jobseekers, according to Michael Lewis.
The E.ON UK Chief Executive and Chair of the Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership (EUSP) spoke to Utility Week on the back of the publication of the latter’s Workforce Renewal and Skills Strategy for the next five years.
He said that the coronavirus pandemic had reiterated for many consumers how vital the services provided by utilities were and that this, combined with an increasing public appetite to tackle climate change, could put the sector “in the vanguard of tackling the environmental crisis”.
He said: “Industry attractiveness is absolutely key, and we need to be showing the public that this is the front line. Young people, in particular, really get that. They want to be help in tackling climate change and to be a part of that bigger purpose. That idea of a purpose to what you do at work is only going to become more important, and we have a lot we can say about that.”
The latest strategy from the Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership updates work done since 2017, which set out to tackle the recruitment challenge facing the industry over the next decade. With 27 per cent of the workforce set to retire during that period, combined with the growth of new jobs, it is estimated there will be a 277,000 vacancies – equivalent to replacing or retraining 48 per cent of the current workforce.
The new strategy acknowledges a changed landscape in the UK since 2017 – with the net-zero target of 2050 enshrined in legislation, Brexit and now Covid-19 having created new challenges and opportunities.
Lewis insisted that even the pandemic had presented some positives in terms of public perceptions of the sector.
“A crisis does reveal who you really rely on and I think customers have been reminded of that, and our workforce has really felt that. They understood what we’re doing is critical.”
He went on to discuss the potential to train up a workforce that could then be redeployed over many years across a number of net-zero projects.
However, he insisted that the government must create the framework for investment in these projects.
To read his full comments, see the original Utility Week article