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UK net zero strategy ‘must assemble a mass skilled workforce’
The transition to a net zero energy economy will require the creation of a substantial strategy to deliver the relevant new skills to the whole energy industry workforce, according to reports from the EI and the government’s Green Jobs Taskforce.
First, professionals across all walks of UK energy have called for government and industry to coalesce around a national skills strategy that underpins the development of low-carbon energy and supply chains, in a just way that does not leave today’s skilled workers and their communities stranded. Their views were revealed as part of the Energy Institute’s Energy Barometer 2021: the net zero skills issue, based on responses from more than 400 UK professionals spanning renewables to oil and gas to energy efficiency.
Acknowledging progress in UK energy policy over the past year, but also the need for further action needed to get the country on track for its 2030 and 2050 emission reduction goals, respondents to the survey concluded that action to bring on the necessary workforce is pressing. The survey found that a majority of UK energy professionals are already training for net zero and considering a move this decade. And it concluded that a push of a skills strategy, from schools and up, is needed, alongside the pull of stable energy policy.
EI President Steve Holliday said: ‘A laser focus on policies and initiatives to drive the development of low-carbon technologies is vital, but must not eclipse the equally important need to support and develop the net zero workforce. We often hear about the long lead times involved in building a new power plant. But the lead times required to bring on a heat pump installer or wind turbine engineer – from inspiring interest in STEM in schools through the necessary apprenticeships and university degrees and into the workforce – are as long if not longer.’
UKERC Director and EI Trustee Professor Rob Gross added: ‘A national net zero skills strategy needs to focus on parts of the existing highly skilled workforce facing the most change. In the transition over the coming decades, roles in energy intensive industries, fossil fuel production and their supply chains will change markedly, so it’s vital for the reskilling to keep pace.’
Meanwhile, every UK job has the potential to be green, according to a new report from the Green Jobs Taskforce convened by the Business and Education departments in November 2020 and backed by the government. The government has welcomed 15 new recommendations from the Taskforce, which include:
· publishing a detailed net zero strategy and using policy to promote good green jobs, skills and competitive supply chains;
· industry, the education sector and the government working together to ensure green careers advice and pathways into good green jobs; and
· building on the government’s skills reforms to support people to work in the new green economy.
The report assesses how the UK jobs market and the skills sector should adapt to support net zero, from training engineers and construction workers who are building the UK’s offshore wind farms and nuclear plants, to the retrofitters who will make homes more comfortable and energy efficient, and car mechanics servicing electric vehicles and vans.
Last, more than 1,000 jobs are to be created and safeguarded across the North-East of England and the Humber, thanks to more than £180mn of private investment announced by Business & Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng. Offshore wind manufacturers SeAH Wind and Smulders Projects UK will also receive grant funding from the government’s £160mn Offshore Wind Manufacturing Investment Support scheme to build factories that will develop components for next generation wind turbines.
SeAH Wind will receive funding towards a new monopile foundation factory at the Able Marine Energy Park on the Humber, while Smulders Projects UK will receive funding towards investment in new infrastructure to enable the manufacture of offshore wind turbine transition pieces at its existing site in Wallsend, Newcastle.