Skills crisis threatens energy sector

The UK must address the skills shortage in the energy sector to improve productivity and profitability of businesses and compete in the global market. That’s the warning from the UK […]

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By Priyanka Shrestha

The UK must address the skills shortage in the energy sector to improve productivity and profitability of businesses and compete in the global market.

That’s the warning from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), which suggests standards and qualifications “need to keep up with rapid developments” in the sector to ensure the workforce has the necessary skills.

It revealed employers are “reluctant to invest sufficiently” in formal training and upskilling of some employees as a result of an increasingly mobile workforce, often working on short-term contracts.

The research revealed skills shortages across a range of key occupations in the industry – engineers, technicians, project managers, sales and marketing managers and overhead lines workers.

It highlighted the scale of the challenge facing the energy sector, where the total number of jobs is forecast to grow by 15.5% by 2022.

However, 23,000 of the workforce in the coal, oil and gas plus mining sectors and 43,000 of the electricity and gas workforce are expected to retire by 2022, according to 2013 statistics from Working Futures.

The limited supply of skilled and experienced workers are said to be caused by:

> strong competition for skills between sub-sectors, other sectors and countries
> uptake of the most sector-relevant STEM qualifications not meeting employer demand
> poor visibility and interest in the energy sector as a career prospect among young people
> an ageing workforce

In 2013, the energy sector contributed around £25 billion to the UK economy and employed 6.2% of the industrial workforce. However, productivity has been declining since 2005, driven by a fall in oil and gas production, the report claims citing DECC.

The UKCES is calling on the government to provide funding for schemes to train people, enable higher level standards to be quickly developed and encourage collaboration between academia and industry so qualifications are tailored closely to meet employer needs.

Lesley Giles, Research Director at UKCES said: “We are all dependent on the energy sector to fuel our everyday lives. It is a growth sector which adds £25 billion to the economy each year but needs to take steps to mitigate the risk presented by skills shortages and a competitive global market place.”

ELN has contacted DECC for a comment.