Water - Energy & Utility Skills


The water industry in the UK makes up a directly employed population of 127,000 and an indirectly employed population (through sub contracts, ancillary activity and product delivery) of a further 86,200.


The Water Industry

The industry is facing a wide range of multifaceted challenges to ensure the long-term resilience of both water and sewerage services. A resilient water industry is vital for the health and wellbeing of the population and the security of the UK in terms of the environment and economy.

The water industry a major employer and trainer across the UK due to the variety of roles and the regulatory need to demonstrate robust governance.

Our health, wealth creation and quality of life depend on water, the most precious natural resource, essential for life in the UK and as such water provision is heavily scrutinised.

The water industry uses up to three per cent of the total energy used in the UK and to meet climate change objectives, water companies are moving towards delivering further distributed generation, with a new set of skills required to operate and maintain renewable energy systems.

The industry is heavily regulated with economic, environmental, quality and customer service bodies with the sole focus on the sector across the UK. The industry is regulated to meet increasingly stringent water quality, environmental, operational and customer standards.

The water sector is much larger than just the water companies in the UK, with framework contractors, contracted providers and others, such as plumbers (98,000) working on private potable water systems. With an annual turnover of £11bn each year and with 65 million citizens and most industry dependent on it, the water industry is critical to the UK economy.

Water Industry Demographics


Our Work

Energy & Utility Skills works across the UK to ensure the water sector has a competent, resilient and sustainable workforce. As an expert voice in workforce renewal strategy and assuring competence we work with UK policy makers, regulator, regulated water business, new entrants to the sector plus the vital delivery partners to inform UK-wide workforce and skills policy, strategy and legislation.

The water industry is currently facing major infrastructure and operational demands. Changes in the availability of skills and capacity in the labour market present potential resilience issues for water companies, supply chain and other partners. Workforce resilience is now a requirement of corporate and operational resilience within price setting and is an embedded requirement of business planning with the Ofwat PR19 Final Methodology. Energy & Utility Skills has also published a dashboard of key labour market metrics to help keep companies informed about trends in the labour market so they can plan and manage appropriately.

The Workforce Renewal Challenge

  • For AMP6 46% of the workforce is estimated to leave through retirement or staff turnover
    • Retirements increase by about 50% from 2016 to 2024
    • 16% of the regulated and 4% of the tier 1 contractor workforce retire in next five years
    • 18% of the regulated workforce and 64% of the tier 1 contractor workforce turnover in next five years
    • By 2024 the English/Welsh water companies will have needed to replace (by volume) their entire workforce
    • Of 329,000 HE leavers in 2013/14 only 2,200 joined the utilities sector – over half of these in power
    • Water had the lowest number of utility apprenticeship starts and completions in 2013/14
    • 96% of apprentice starts were male

Strategic Partnerships

Our strategic partnerships for the water industry operate across the UK, encompassing policy makers, regulators, the regulated and their critical delivery partners. We work with Water UK, British Water, Future Water Association and the Institute of Water to ensure our members’ concerns are voiced at the highest levels. We work closely with these bodies and the four key utility unions – Unison, Unite, Prospect and GMB – to raise issues and work to develop solutions which benefit the UK industry as a whole.


Our work centres around the important role of skills. Our 80 members enable us to bring together the sector to identify and address the skills challenges we face. Our work has been recognised by Ofwat who reference the importance of workforce resilience and sustainability within their ‘Resilience in the round’ report.

“A workforce with the right skills is vital for a resilient water sector. The challenges we now face mean that the sector must pay even more attention to the long-term skills it will need and the ways in which they will differ from the needs of the past. That’s why we welcome the first Energy and Utilities Workforce and Skills Strategy and we encourage water companies to work together with their workforce to successfully transition to the water company of the future.”

Cathryn Ross, former Chief Executive, Ofwat

We have supported our members with the implementation and bedding in of the Apprenticeship Levy in England and continue to provide expert advice and analysis across the UK. We work closely with each industry we represent to ensure the schemes and standards are in place to train the talent needed and aid transferability of skills within the sector.

Supporting the water industry to address leakage

Leakage reduction will help bring resilient water supplies and protect the environment

Leakage is generally described as loss of treated water from the distribution system. It includes water lost from across the companies’ distribution networks and in the consumers’ supply pipes that eventually enter their homes. The distribution system has around half a million kilometres of water pipes carrying approximately 17 billion litres of high quality treated water around the UK every day.

In 2017/18, around 23 per cent of the UK’s water was lost to leakage. This is down about a third from its 1994-95 high. Across the four nations of the UK, water policy makers, regulators and the regulated utility businesses have made clear public commitments to significant reductions in leakage right through to 2050.

In England & Wales, Ofwat has set an expectation that water companies will significantly reduce leakage to the order of 15% during the AMP7 period alone. The Water UK Public Interest Commitment has set out its members intent to triple the rates of leakage reduction by 2030, Westminster government and some water companies have already stated that 50% reduction is needed by 2050.

In Scotland, the government, economic regulator and water company continue to drive leakage reduction in to each year’s Delivery Plan and over 13 years has reduced leakage from 1104 million litres a day to 480 million litres a day. In Northern Ireland, the ambition is to go from 291 million litres a day lost in March 2002 to 153 million litres by March 2021.UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR) research is looking at how to reach a UK goal of zero leakage by 2050.

To deliver these major commitments and maintain the gains, the entire UK water industry and its major supply chain partners will need to work together to ensure they have the quantity of skilled workforce they need, in the right locations, at the right time, at a price that customers can afford. Standardisation of approach and assurance of competence right across all those working on the distribution system and in contact with the public water supply will help ensure the fastest possible achievement of the goals.

Schemes and Programmes

We operate the following schemes for the Industry:

Passport Schemes                                                                   

Skills-based Schemes

Bespoke Programmes

For more information on our schemes and programmes please visit the EUSR website.

Further reading

Energy & Utilities Jobs is a collaboration which aims to ensure our industries have a sufficient pipeline of talent entering the sector, whilst retaining quality candidates for the future. Supported by 25 energy and utilities employers, including leading water companies, the project connects talent, partners and employers.

The Sector’s Inclusion Commitment is ensuring a diverse workforce able to interact with its communities

For information on the Apprenticeship Services we provide.

Find Out More

Become a member and help influence the future of the water industry. To find out more about membership please contact us on 0121 713 8255 or email membership@euskills.co.uk.