Apprentice initiative is good news for us all

As storms literal and figurative rage across the utilities world this week, readers could be forgiven for missing what is arguably a much more important story. On Monday, the 67 key sector companies which comprise the Energy and Efficiency Industrial Partnership were named “apprentice trailblazers” by the government. These utilities and associated companies will lead a major overhaul of the apprenticeship system in the UK, designed to equip employers with the skilled workers they need.

It can’t come fast enough. Energy & Utility Skills, the body co-ordinating the partnership, has estimated that utilities could face a shortfall of 208,000 workers by 2025. Writing in these pages last month, UK Power Networks chief executive Basil Scarsella warned: “If these issues are not considered now, the consequences could be dramatic.”
So – some good news for a change. Major energy networks and suppliers, water companies and contractors, all have signed up to the partnership, chaired by National Grid’s chief executive Steve Holliday. They have made a commitment of time and money, which has in turn been recognised by the government, and will be working over the next few months to redesign apprenticeships. The first new-look schemes could be on the ground by the end of next year.
The utilities of the future must recruit and retain the brightest and best talent at all levels and of all disciplines, ranging from traditional engineering to customer-facing and technological. This is a great start, and the companies involved are to be congratulated. Without continued commitment and partnership working to develop the skills the industry so desperately needs, there would be no engineers to reconnect thousands of homes in the aftermath of storms in 20 years’ time, and indeed no energy supply to argue about the price of.
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