Report: Half of energy workers feel ‘unprepared’ for low-carbon transition

Almost half (48%) of workers within the global power sector are concerned that their industry is not doing enough to equip staff with skills they need to adapt to an increasingly decarbonised, digitised energy system, new research has revealed.

Report: Half of energy workers feel ‘unprepared’ for low-carbon transition

Both energy managers and hiring managers were surveyed to produce the Index

Published today (22 January) after a survey of 17,000 workers across the oil and gas, renewables, power, nuclear and petrochemicals sectors, the Global Energy Talent Index (GETI) reveals that these industries are struggling to balance current talent shortages with adapting to the changing skills needs of a low-carbon, high-tech power economy.

Of the survey respondents, covering 162 countries and working either as energy managers or hiring managers, almost one-third (32%) said their company was already experiencing a skills shortage – particularly regarding engineering, leadership, problem-solving and process management.

A further 38% of respondents said their firm was likely to run into a talent shortage in the near future, with the nuclear and petrochemicals sector lagging behind renewables and oil and gas in terms of competitiveness.

The competitiveness of these two sectors has led to a trend of salary increases across the entire power sector, the GETI concludes, with more than half (57%) of non-hiring professionals having received a pay rise last year.

The Index, which is the third publication of its kind after GETI was founded in 2015, was co-produced by workforce solutions firm Airswift and sector-specific job website Energy Jobline.

In order to bridge the so-called skills gap as soon as possible, corporates will need to launch more comprehensive apprenticeships and graduate training schemes to attract young workers who are confident at adapting to new technologies, the report concludes. They will additionally need to re-market themselves as attractive to millennials, who will account for three-quarters of the UK’s workforce by 2025, if “transformative” technologies like smart grid systems are to be rolled out at scale, the report warns.

“It looks as though the power sector has one eye on the present and one firmly on its digital future,” Airswift’s chief executive Janette Marx said.

“The need for more engineers points to an industry concerned with meeting its immediate needs, but the skills respondents identified are exactly those you need to successfully manage change – something firms will be doing a lot of as they adapt to automation.”

‘Green-collar’ jobs

The findings detailed in the GETI echo those of a recent International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) study, which found that there are now more than 10 million people working in the renewables sector globally.

Some 500,000 new jobs were created in the industry between 2016 and 2017, according to IRENA, which has predicted that the total number of people employed in the field could reach 28 million by 2050.

The rapid expansion of the renewables sector, coupled with the trend towards a low-carbon, democratised and digitised global energy system, has been described by some as a “transformation”. Former National Grid boss Steve Holliday, however, has dubbed the process in the UK a “chaotic revolution”.

While this transition has been hailed for the benefits it could bring in terms of carbon reductions, lower energy bills and a more secure energy system, concerns that low-income areas once supported by fossil fuels could be “excluded” from these rewards continue to persist.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has urged energy businesses to help retrain 28,000 oil, gas and coal workers, for example, while The Aldersgate Group has previously made calls for ministers to implement policy frameworks which “champion investment” in the North’s uptake of low-carbon projects.

Responding to these concerns at a panel discussion in London last week, Energy Minister Claire Perry called on businesses to help policymakers create a low-carbon economy that does not exclude working-class people or rural regions. Her sentiments were echoed by representatives from BT, Marks & Spencer (M&S), Vattenfall and the Bank of America.

Claire Perry at edie’s Sustainability Leaders Forum

Claire Perry will appear at Day One of edie’s Sustainability Leaders Forum, to discuss the latest green policy changes and what they could mean for UK businesses. 

She will additionally provide her insight into how Brexit will shape the UK’s low-carbon future, and how progress against the Clean Growth Strategy is likely to continue in 2019. 

The two-day event, taking place 5 & 6 February 2019 at the Building Design Centre, London, will also include debates on how to solve the plastics crisis and the state of corporate action on sustainable packaging. 

For more information and to register for the Forum, click here.

Sarah George

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