Skills shortage threatens UK energy transition

The talent drought could derail the green energy transition in both the UK and Europe. Offshore wind and fossil fuels are both suffering talent shortages across mechanical, instrument and electrical engineering skills, and the energy industry is struggling to tap into a huge potential talent pool: women.

The offshore workforce has been shrinking since 2010 and took a major hit in 2020 from the pandemic, according to Offshore Energies UK’s (OEUK) annual workforce insight report. Yet demand for offshore workers is increasing. 97% of companies polled said attracting the skills they needed was an “uphill struggle”.

This comes at the worst possible time, as the UK is battling to secure domestic oil and gas supplies while continuing to push towards net zero. The loss of irreplaceable knowledge and experience as boomers retire en masse is adding to the problem.

OEUK revealed that the situation had worsened significantly in just two years. Only a few companies were struggling in 2019; now 85% of those that employ craft workers are finding it hard to recruit them, along with 81% having trouble recruiting in drilling and 80% in design engineering.

Supply-chain managers, mechanical, electrical and reservoir engineers, and electricians are particularly hard to find, according to the survey, with 18% of companies suffering a shortage of process, environmental, mechanical and instrument engineers.

However, there are positive signs of growth. Direct and indirect employment (indirect jobs are those further down the supply chain) has risen by nearly 5,000, and the gender pay gap in the sector has narrowed by 3% since 2018.

But the current talent drought means growth may not last. Despite a 12% recovery in the worldwide offshore workforce since the pandemic, the overall workforce has diminished by 5%. And with the upcoming tax hike set to push North Sea windfall tax to 75%, businesses may struggle to find the budget to invest in skills.

Cross-skilling offers a potential solution: training programmes could attract recruits with transferable skills away from other industries to feed the growing need for talent in green energy.

Katy Heidenreich, supply chain and people director for OEUK, has called on governments to take action urgently to support the energy sector in recruiting and retaining the talent it needs. Otherwise, she warned, the skills shortage might “spell a premature end for the UK’s clean energy ambitions”.

If you’re concerned about this news or struggling to attract and retain talent, get in touch today to discover how Zero Net can help you beat the talent drought.

Posted by: Zero Net