Apprenticeships: Part of our culture and recipe for a skilled workforce

The Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership (the Partnership) has today stated its commitment to apprenticeships, as struggling industries and employers across the UK pause, or are forced to end their programmes.

Nick Ellins, the Chief Executive of Energy and Utility Skills who sits on the voluntary Partnership’s leadership Council advised:

“Today’s announcement is no quick pledge. The Energy and Utilities Skills Partnership has set out to make a positive difference to society and is making clear that its long history of investing in apprenticeships remains firm, with employment through this approach continuing to be a key part of utility workforce strategy.”

“We are working together to create an inclusive culture, employ apprentices and build a diverse and sustainable workforce in a sector that is now openly recognised as a critical industry; pivotal to society, to the future of the economy and to solving the environmental crisis. Talented people can make a real difference here, and the employers have a strong pedigree over decades for nurturing talent through high quality apprenticeships, employing people from across our society from entry level to highly skilled.”

This latest announcement on apprenticeships follows the recent launch of the major ‘Workforce Renewal & Skills Strategy 2020-2025’ for the gas, power, water and waste management industries. The five-year strategy sets out how through collaboration, the utility businesses and their supply chain partners will tackle the 277,000 vacancies they expect across the sector over the next ten years, while accommodating a fast-changing competency need. To deliver on that aim, several initiatives are underway that support and complement today’s announcement.

To build a genuinely inclusive culture and ensure business approaches that provide careers to people from across society into the workforce and encourage innovation and diversity of thinking, the Partnership launched a formal Inclusion Commitment. Forty-two utility-based companies are already working together to drive change and stimulate best practice, including measuring progress in this area through an audited framework.

To help people better understand the value they can bring to society and the environment from a career in the utility sector, the partnership launched an attraction platform called Energy & Utilities Jobs. Targeted at hard to reach groups and accommodating those impacted by job losses, the virtual initiative has already made a big impact in its short life, reaching over 8.5 million potential employees and offering over 500 jobs per month. In tackling gender diversity, the Partnership effort secured over 52% female inquiries over 2020 and accelerated to 67% across May.  

To ensure the vital supply chain can also build a sustainable workforce and skillset, the Partnership committed to its Procurement Skills Accord which promotes investment in training and skills development through procurement practices. The five robust and challenging commitments are audited each year, and companies receive awards for reaching best practice. At the recent awards, presented by Ofwat Chief Executive Rachel Fletcher, and Michael Lewis, E.ON UK Chief Executive, 46 companies met the criteria and were evidenced as delivering investment growth against targeted skills gaps.  

Michael Lewis, who is also Chair of the Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership advised

“Today’s announcement joins together a core pledge to apprenticeships that our partners share, with a framework of 14 approaches explaining how we will build diversity and inclusion to help as many people as we can into new careers. It is one vital part of our wider strategy to create the skilled workforce needed to deliver the UK’s essential services and tackle the climate emergency. I would encourage employers across our sector to show they stand behind apprenticeships too.

“Because utilities have apprenticeships in their DNA, with a well evidenced history of nurturing talent through high quality apprenticeships and employing people from across society – from entry level right through to the highly skilled. Utility employers were in the vanguard of adapting to the new Apprenticeship Levy policy reforms, and my own company delivered some of the very first technical apprentices to graduate under those changes. They remain highly valuable routes into our workforce.”

Creating work ready apprenticeships to attract diverse talent was a stated objective of the inaugural Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership ‘Workforce Renewal & Skills Strategy’, which was launched in 2017. The latest 2020 to 2025 publication continues that firm commitment to build a talent pipeline through rigorous and high quality on and off the job training. Apprenticeships remain one of the key ways to develop the skills needed for successful business today and for the future. Since that work commenced, thousands of highly skilled apprentices have emerged to take their place within the ranks of the critical energy and utility workforce.

These apprentices deliver services that help to bring heat, light, power, fresh water, sanitation, remove waste and support recycling for 66.5 million people across the United Kingdom. They bring great value to society, the environment and the economy. The Partnership believe that building inclusive apprenticeship programmes brings clear economic and business advantages. Boosting apprenticeships across the sector’s technical occupations is now paramount, despite a general decline in employer participation in apprenticeships in England. In the last two years, the energy and utilities sector has outperformed the overall UK picture, with over 8000 apprenticeship starts in 2018-19 across the four nations.

Energy & Utilities companies committed to the Apprenticeship Pledge

  • Affinity Water
  • Anglian Water
  • Cadent
  • Centrica
  • Clancy Docwra
  • E.ON
  • FCC Environment
  • Keltbray Utilities
  • Kier
  • Morrison Utility Services
  • National Grid
  • Northern Gas Networks
  • Northern Powergrid
  • Northumbrian Water
  • Pennon Group
  • Scottish Power – Energy Networks
  • Scottish Water
  • SGN
  • Southern Water
  • SSE
  • SES Water
  • Thames Water
  • UK Power Networks
  • United Utilities
  • Wales & West Utilities

To read the full pledge > download.