Engineering the future
Meeting the network challenges of the future means ensuring we have the skilled workforce to deliver it. The energy networks are undergoing a once in a generation transformation and to deliver it will demand a dedicated group of people equipped to build and maintain the smarter network we need the UK’s aspiration of a low carbon economy. This has to be seen against the backdrop of a shrinking workforce. It is not just our infrastructure that is aging but also our key workers. Some estimates predict that 70% of people who currently work in our network companies will have retired within 15 years. As well as challenges out to the 2030s there are also some key skills challenges emerging in the next few years.
This is why ENA are working with the National Skills Academy for Power and Energy & Utility Skills to put the issues of skills high on the nation’s agenda. This means working to raise the profile and attractiveness of our sector and working to deliver polices in Government that will facilitate this.
By 2014 there will need to be at least a threefold increase in meter installers to ensure that the Government’s target of smart meter in every home by 2019 can be delivered.
We also need to ensure we have a skilled workforce ready to deal with the safety and network related issues that will be faced during the roll out.
Networks businesses are anticipating an average of 20,000 network issues which will need to be dealt with every week of the programme for nearly 5 years. It is therefore vital for the success of smart metering delivery that field staff, such as jointers and linesmen, together with back office staff and other technical support employees are available to support smart meter installers. . As an example of the challenge a jointer currently takes in the region of two years to train to a competent standard and the main delivery programme commences in 2014.
A shrinking skills base
Thanks to initiatives from the network companies through apprenticeships and other programmes over recent years, we have seen a considerable increase in the number of younger employees in the industry. However there is a comparatively significant shortfall in the number of 25-45 years olds in the industry. This will need to be addressed by re-skilling people from other sectors.
Skills for the future
The challenge of building a smarter network will mean the need for new and diverse skills to support its development. A key future difference will be enhanced telecoms knowledge for field engineers. ENA and member companies are helping to encourage the skills agenda as part of the Low Carbon Networks Fund project programme which will help better understand the skills that we need. This will assist in the development of training programmes which will deliver the skills base that our energy future demands.
ENA is pleased to work with and support the work of the National Skills Academy for Power: www.power.nsacademy.co.uk