Energy Sector Skills Shortages

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Engineering skills in action

Project Aims & Objectives

There is a growing body of evidence about the progressive, long term decline in the numbers of “next generation” scientists and engineers available to support UK industry and academia. At the same time as this decline in skills it is evident that there are highly material challenges inherent in meeting national energy policy goals (supply, infrastructure and asset renewal, security of supplies, etc) and for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Technology innovation and commercialisation are the key to achieving both sets of inter-twined goals. These in turn are dependent upon having a cadre of high calibre, committed and practising scientists and engineers.

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Against this background, the Energy Research Partnership initiated a project to address the high level skills shortages in the energy sector; where high-level skills are taken to mean those required to contribute to the research and development chain that provides innovative new solutions to the challenges the UK energy industry faces – and to deploy them effectively. The specific aims for this work were as follows;

  • To map high-level skill deficiencies within the energy research and innovation chain.
  • To identify both the reasons for, and options to address these high-level skill deficiencies.

Key Messages

In response, this report utilises both the substantial research work already undertaken by various bodies, supported by the views and data provided by the members of the Energy Research Partnership.

The key findings of the study are:

  • Skills shortages are causing recruitment problems in the sector.
  • It is specifically technical skills that are in short supply.
  • The problem is only at its early stages – without intervention this situation is anticipated to worsen to a severe shortage, particularly when the extent of energy innovation and infrastructure replacement that is required is taken into account.
  • It is the shrinking pool of graduates that is at issue rather than any concern that their quality is degrading.
  • Organisations are looking abroad for skilled resource, in part a direct response to worsening problems in recruitment.
  • The sector is seen to have a poor image among young people, however it is recognised that we are at a turning point in the sector with some very powerful tools to change this.
  • A significant ‘outreach’ initiative could influence future career choices among young people.
  • When skilled labour leaves an organisation, it tends to remain within the energy sector.
  • Energy sector pay compares favourably in engineering, but it is recognised this will never be a competitive advantage versus other areas such as financial services.
  • There is no evidence of post-training attrition; retention rates in the sector compare very favourably with those in other sectors.
  • The sector has strong competitive advantages, the projects going on are engaging and exciting and, once recruited, labour does not tend to leave the sector.
  • A key recommendation of the report is that harnessing the above advantage by interacting with young people at a very early age could make a significant impact on the number of recruits coming through, and improve general public perceptions.
  • It is recognised there are individual organisational efforts, but the scale of the problem is likely to require additional activity, the form of which will need careful design and implementation.

Final Report

Investigation into high-level skills shortages in the energy sector 6.7Mb (March 2007)

Further Information

 contact The ERP Analysis Team.

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