Energy & Utility Skills won the first ever Utility Partner of the Year Award. Utility Week finds out why.

  • Category title: Utility Partner of the Year
  • Award winner: Energy & Utility Skills
  • Entry criteria:
  1. Explain the nature of your business and the service you provide to utilities
  2. Give examples of where you have helped specific utilities achieve their business goals, including costs, timescales and outcomes
  3. Give examples of how you have added value to the utilities sector – for example, through new networking practices, introducing innovation, long term partnerships etc
  4. How have you provided quantifiable benefits to your utility partners, both directly in relation to this partnership and more widely?
  5. How has your partnership provided quantifiable benefits to customers and other stakeholders?

Energy & Utility Skills brings industry leaders together to identify and address the skills challenges the sector faces.

The not-for-profit organisation was named the first ever Utility Partner of the Year at the Utility Week Awards in December 2018. It was recognised for its work in providing membership, assurance and skills solutions to help employers attract, develop and retain a sustainable skilled workforce.

The Utility Partner of the Year Award was one of four new categories for the 2018 awards, which were introduced to recognise a wider breadth of achievement within utilities.

The category aims to shine a light on the partners that are instrumental in helping utilities go about their daily business.

It called for entrants such as contractors, IT providers, suppliers and other partners to demonstrate how they have supported sector employers to achieve their business goals, added value and provided quantifiable benefits to partners, customers and other stakeholders.


With a membership of 81 major utility businesses, spanning the four UK nations, collaboration is at the heart of the organisation.

Energy & Utility Skills says it focuses on enabling a safe, skilled and sustainable workforce for UK infrastructure companies, within water, power, gas and waste management, including tier one delivery partners.

It has set out to bring a new level of sector-wide collaboration between key stakeholders – including policy makers, regulators, asset owners, retailers, delivery partners, the supply chain, unions and training providers – to address well evidenced concerns over workforce quantity, quality and transferability or what is known as workforce resilience. Individual and company commitments are the essence of this innovative partnership.

The partnership:

  • Created the sector’s first ever Workforce Renewal and Skills Strategy
  • Launched the leading end point assessment body for apprenticeships
  • Provided the technical skills and apprenticeship framework for the largest single infrastructure project in the UK – smart metering
  • Manages 1.1 million skills records for the sector using digital systems available 24/7
  • Created a new mass talent attraction initiative Talent Source Network
  • Developed a Procurement Skills Accord to drive higher levels of investment in skills

Helping companies achieve business goals

Utilities asked Energy & Utility Skills to implement reform and optimise recovery to assist the sector’s adaption to the UK Apprenticeship Levy, which costs the industry around £40 million annually.

The organisation created best practice policy networks across the UK, helping employers adapt to and optimise their levy recovery. It also built the necessary infrastructure to get apprenticeships and financial recovery underway, including approval of ten apprenticeship standards.

Having been operationally ready from the first day of the opening of the market, Energy & Utility Skills achieved 100 per cent of the available funding for utility employers. The hard work paid off as the body says it outperformed in every formal audit and outperformed all UK business sectors in delivering reform and levels of levy recovery.

Creating the infrastructure from scratch and setting out a “can do” attitude, utilities became the first to secure approval of a new apprenticeship standard by government, the first to graduate an apprenticeship, and the sector currently delivers one in five of all graduating apprentices.

This has led to utilities recovering an average of 35 per cent of their tax, against an economy average of just over 20 per cent. While many UK business sectors are yet to graduate their first apprentice, the utility sector is celebrating its 500th.

Workforce Renewal and Skills Strategy

The new model of partnership is supported by more than 50 key policy makers, quality and economic regulators, regulated businesses, unions, supply chain and professional institutes. With such wide support it created the Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership with the sector’s chief executives and managing directors setting the direction of executing the strategy.

Within a year the strategy resulted in workforce resilience and recognition of the “value of human capital” being embedded for the first time in Ofwat’s PR19 and Ofgem’s RIIO2 price setting approach and within the Drinking Water Inspectorate’s (DWI) risk-based regime.

Talent Source Network

Energy & Utility Skills says its new mass talent attraction initiative, Talent Source Network “breaks new ground”, encouraging policy makers and regulators to work with employers to compete for skilled, diverse and emerging talent.

The Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), HM Treasury, Ofwat, Ofgem, the DWI and others are now working in collaboration with the sector.

The pilot year reached 1.97 million people, secured 61 per cent females inquirers, generated 5,900 job applications and resulted in 2,700 people seeking new careers in utilities. Employers have changed work practices, referring unsuccessful or redeployed talent back into the workforce pool, with a 50 per cent conversion rate. The pilot year (2016-17) demonstrated £336,220 of additional value to the initial investment made.

2018 – a successful year

Winning the Utility Partner of the Year rounded off a year of success for Energy & Utility Skills, which included continued support for the Procurement Skills Accord by 56 sector organisations; the Energy & Utilities Independent Assessment Service celebrating 500 apprentices completing end-point assessment (now at over 700); a new partnership with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award; and Talent Source Network securing support from 25 leading sector employers as well as recognition from industry regulators.

Winner’s comment

Nick Ellins, chief executive, Energy & Utility Skills

“My team and my board set ourselves two clear goals: make excellence the standard within our business, and deliver excellence in the eyes of our sector, through trusted partnerships.

“We were awarded Investors in People Gold in November, and now feel hugely honoured to be named Utility Partner of the Year 2018.

“Yet again, Utility Week has brought the sector into the spotlight through these amazing awards and shown off the best of the utility people that our economy and 66 million UK citizens rely on every single day.

“Energy & Utility Skills is more committed than ever to playing its part in ensuring the high standards, sustainability and resilience of this talented workforce.”

What the judges said…

Judges highlighted that it was a close contest, but Energy & Utility Skills stood out for its approach to collaboration. Judges praised the sector workforce and skills specialist body for being “a true partner to the entire utility sector”.

Other shortlisted companies in this category were:

  • Charis
  • Lanes Group
  • Morrison Utility Services
  • Paypoint
  • Stantec Treatment
  • The Sigma Financial

The Utility Week Awards are held in association with CGI, Capgemini and Microsoft

The 2019 Utility Week Awards will be opening soon. Sponsorship opportunities are available – contact Utility Week business development manager Ben Hammond on or 01342 332116 for more information.

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