Acknowledging the industry
Chris Skidmore’s landmark 340-page report on how the journey to Net Zero is the economic growth opportunity of the century is clear that “Mission Zero” has no choice but to succeed.
Skidmore’s key message describes a very challenging and very positive future for the energy and utilities industries: Net Zero is non-negotiable and will be the most powerful driver of the UK’s economic transformation and growth in the decades ahead.
Informed by the biggest engagement with industry on Net Zero policy to date, Energy & Utility Skills welcomes Mission Zero’s strong recommendations on skills, many of which directly reflect our inputs to the review.
Net Zero will be delivered by people. It has always been clear that skills underwrite the success of its ambitions. Championing the needs of our membership and wider industry, Energy & Utility Skills has consistently called for clear, confident and integrated government policy for industrial skills, a new approach to shorter, more responsive skills programmes, and flexibilities in the apprenticeship levy. It is exactly these recommendations that top Skidmore’s the list of priorities for the workforce.
Mission Zero identifies the importance of driving forward the outcomes of the Green Jobs Delivery Group, which is co-Chaired by the Energy & Utility Skills Partnership. And it signals the importance of targeted interventions to drive forward skills and workforce developments needed to deliver Net Zero:
- “Government and the Green Jobs Delivery Group should explore a range of targeted options, including increasing the flexibility of the apprenticeship levy, and assessing whether the levy aligns with Government net zero and growth priorities, and whether shorter, more intensive courses should be available alongside exploring the role of T levels; and options for retaining talent within businesses and access to international labour.”
Mission Zero also reflects many of the energy and utility employers’ views:
- “The Review describes in detail the major issues raised by industry and a wide range of other stakeholders, which overwhelmingly focused on greater policy certainty and interventions on skills and the wider labour market.”
- “Government to publish an action plan for Net Zero skills that includes a comprehensive roadmap of when, where, and in which sectors there will be skills needs specific to net zero.”
- “The Review has also heard from industry that some skills, for example installing heat pumps, could benefit from a shorter training programme than standard apprenticeships. The Government should also consider how the levy could be applied to shorter, more intensive courses to rapidly upskill and retrain the existing workforce, alongside the extensive apprenticeship training programme.”
- “On retaining talent, we heard in our Call for Evidence that making it easier for companies to move their people around the business will ensure the best talent is available in the UK. Industry should consider a net zero skills passport to simplify and streamline retraining needed to move into new green jobs.”
- “Industry raised that easier access to high-skilled international labour may help reduce the skills gap, in particular in coming years when it will become more pronounced given the rapid increase in net zero skills demand and loss of existing talent – one in five energy and utilities workers are due to retire before 2030.”
Boosting the sector
Skidmore describes priority missions to 2035 that will impact across the energy and utilities sector and that will need a step change in the skills system to achieve.
- Grid and infrastructure: A strategic framework and delivery plan for the critical networks of the future to turbocharge onshore and offshore development.
- Circular economy and waste: Stimulate the efficient and circular use of resources across the economy, galvanising action on recycling.
- Solar: Full scale deployment of solar to deliver 70GW by 2035.
- Onshore wind: Pave the way for onshore deployment, working closely with communities to deliver local benefits
- Nuclear: A programmatic approach for future nuclear generation, supporting the whole supply chain
- Net Zero nature: Embed nature restoration, maximising co-benefits for climate and nature wherever possible
- Energy intensives and industry: Setting a clear plan for decarbonisation built around long-term investment in Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS)
Aligning the ambition
Just two weeks after Skidmore recommended that, “the Government should also consider how the levy could be applied to shorter, more intensive courses to rapidly upskill and retrain the existing workforce,” Chancellor Jeremy Hunt commented that, “there are lots of people who are ready and willing to consider a new career in their early 50s. They are expecting to work potentially for another 20 years, and they might need a slightly different type of apprenticeship, a slightly shorter type of apprenticeship, and I think that could be very good.”
Less than a month after the launch of Mission Zero, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced the replacement of the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) with a new department for Energy Security and Net Zero – directly reflecting the importance of the sector and, through Energy & Utility Skills, drawing industry skills needs closer to the centre of focus.
Energy & Utility Skills is already working closely with the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) to establish the employer advisory body to deliver the apprenticeships and qualifications that Mission Zero will need. A series of industry deep dives is underway to identify employers’ skills needs and support IfATE and the Green Jobs Delivery group in forming the policy and practice for a more responsive skills system. And working with the Department for Education (DfE) we are establishing connectivity between emerging national skills needs and the new Local Skills Improvement Plans architecture.
The rapid transformation that the skills system needs to deliver Net Zero has begun. The challenge and opportunity for the energy and utilities industries is to lead the way.