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Hundreds of thousands of new recruits needed to power UK’s net zero energy target

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The UK will need to recruit hundreds of thousands of people into its energy sector if it is to meet its target to deliver net zero emissions by 2050. According to research published by National Grid, the industry will need to fill 400,000 jobs, bringing opportunities for skilled tradespeople, engineers and other specialists across every region of the country.

Written in partnership with Development Economics, the Building the net zero energy workforce report looks at the implications of the Committee on Climate Change’s advice that net zero will require fundamental changes to how energy is generated, distributed and used. These changes, which include an increase of electrification to support a widespread shift to electric vehicles (EVs) as well as the introduction of low carbon heating for millions of homes, will offer employment opportunities the length and breadth of the country.

In the north-east of England, for example, the research shows more than 21,000 new recruits will be needed to deliver projects such as offshore wind and the interconnector off the coast of Blyth in Northumberland. Almost 28,000 roles will be needed to work on projects including the further development of offshore wind farms in the East of England, while the development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the Yorkshire and Humber region is projected to support the creation of over 17,000 jobs. In Scotland, workers with net zero-related skills will be needed to fill over 48,000 jobs by 2050, with a further 25,000 roles expected in Wales.

‘Britain reached a major milestone last year as we saw zero carbon electricity outstrip fossil fuels for the first time,’ comments Nicola Shaw CBE, Executive Director of National Grid. ‘But there’s still a long way to go. As the pathway to net zero becomes clearer, so must our understanding of the jobs and skills we need to succeed. Our research shows that to deliver net zero, the energy industry needs to recruit hundreds of thousands of people over the next 30 years – and that really is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the wider impact of net zero across other industries. The time is now for the sector to rise to the challenge and overcome the long-standing issues we face in recruiting a diverse workforce with the right skills to deliver on the UK’s ambitions.’

Of the 400,000 roles that need to be filled over the next 30 years, the sector needs to recruit 117,000 this decade if it is to meet key milestones up to 2050. The report identifies four strategic challenges, warning of a looming retirement crunch, stiff competition for talent with other sectors, a pipeline of young people pursuing STEM qualifications that is still too narrow and an ongoing lack of women in the sector. These issues are not new, but fresh consumer research shows that tackling climate change could be the motivator to unlocking new talent.

David Wright, Chief Electrical Engineer at National Grid, says: ‘To build a skilled, diverse and motivated net zero energy workforce that will tackle the global climate crisis, we’ve got to look at every stage of the pipeline. We know that over half of people want to work in this space so we’ve got to help the existing workforce to reskill, while bringing new talent into the sector and inspiring the next generation to pursue STEM subjects at school and beyond.’

Hundreds of thousands needed to power UK’s net zero energy commitment, according to new research from National Grid. Top row, left to right: Nathan Hunt (age 17), Advanced Apprentice; Sarah Woolham-Jaffier (25), Construction Engineer; Bottom row, left to right: Joey Howard (10), local Hackney schoolchild; James Watson, Lead Engineer for Greater London
Photo: National Grid

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