Greater collaboration is key to attracting new entrants into the utilities sector to combat potentially catastrophic skills shortages, according to experts at the inaugural Industry Skills Forum organised by Derby-based Develop Training (DTL), the UK’s leading training specialist in the utilities sector.
The Forum determined that engineering and construction careers remain generally unappealing. Despite technological change, they are still seen as unglamorous and suffer from a bias among young people against roles that are perceived as low status or manual labour.
Forum Chair, Chris Wood, CEO of Develop Training, said: “Over the last few decades vocational training and apprenticeships have gone out of fashion, as students have been largely pushed towards an academic route via universities. As student loans and debt becomes more of an issue, there is a great opportunity for the industry to promote a different career path, which offers the chance to earn as you learn. The utilities sector has good job security, as there’s always a need to flush the toilet and turn the light on. Let’s work together to really make a change – engage school students early to promote the industry as an exciting long-term career option.”
High-profile attendees at the Forum included John Cowell, resource and development manager at Balfour Beatty, Paul Lewis, training delivery manager at SGN, Brian Jobe, head of meter operations at Siemens, Stuart Harrison, business development director at Servelec Controls and Richard Shore, managing director at Mentor Training.
During the Forum, utilities experts agreed that the industry needs to invest in better promoting itself in order to attract the next generation. This means far greater collaboration with the education system and engaging students via work experience, so they can witness first-hand all that the industry has to offer.
Brian Jobe said: “Unfortunately, when employers such as ourselves try to attract new recruits there is very little take up. The Forum highlighted the need for companies to collaborate and perhaps host joint careers fairs, similar to those run by the Armed Forces. This could be one way to solve the recruitment issue compared with the current situation of everyone fishing in the same pool, driving up salaries and competition, which in turn creates large staff turnover wasting valuable HR resources.”