The UK is currently leading the market in terms of offshore wind production, with more installed capacity than any other country in the world and this doesn’t look likely to change. Based on the current predicted pipeline, the offshore wind industry will need around 36,000 employees by 2032 to ensure we keep up with demand.
Whilst that may not seem too high a number to achieve, based on a limited labour market and with poor pipeline of school leavers studying the right subjects, this is going to be a challenge. With roles available across development, construction and operation of the offshore wind energy sector and with total power output potentially increasing from 6.4GW (2017) to a massive 35GW by 2032, we need to act now to ensure this continued growth.
The majority of growth in power output is expected in the North Sea meaning the East of England, Scotland, Yorkshire & Humber and the North East should see job vacancies increasing – which is great news but what type of roles will this increase of c26,000 jobs consist of and will supply be able to keep up with demand? It’s predicted that Construction & Installation will see an increase of c6,700 with Operations & Maintenance requiring c6,900 new employees. The biggest demand will be for Technicians & Engineers, with c10,200 and the remainder of jobs spread across all areas of the project lifecycle (business, commercial, supply chain etc). With the Crown Estate’s Offshore Wind Leasing1 and Crown Estate Scotland’s ScotWind2 projects moving forwards these numbers could increase.
In an already competitive market, and with further investment in Energy and Infrastructure across the board, the demand for this talent will be particularly fierce. With high employment and low unemployment combined with the unknown impact of Brexit on immigration (skilled labour from the EU could decline further) it’s estimated the UK is already short of engineering graduates by c2,000 annually.
What’s clear is that there needs to be more focus on the pipeline of candidates who have the skills to work within the industry. With more focus on promotion of a career in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM subjects) particularly in the case of females and those of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) descent who are massively under-represented in the sector (only 5% of the power sector’s workforce were from as BAME background in 2015/16 according to the ONS3). More promotion of education, qualifications and skills in the sector and clear career pathways will make it much easier for people to see offshore wind as a viable career choice.
To help this shortfall, the Offshore Wind Industry Council has set up an Investment in Talent Group4 to help increase the number of people working in the offshore wind industry in the UK, which includes representatives from companies in the sector and from the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments, as well as trade associations and academic institutions.
Overseen by RenewableUK’s chief executive Hugh McNeal, who stated: “The offshore wind industry is working closely with the government to build a modern workforce, creating new opportunities particularly in coastal communities which need them most”, he continued: “To ensure we attract the best people, this sector is stepping up its ambition to create a more diverse workforce in terms of gender and ethnicity”. Demonstrating a commitment to recruiting from the widest pool of talent, “so that we fully reflect what makes the UK such an exciting, innovative and successful place to do business.”
And the sector will need all the help it can get as new technology has an impact on employment which may mean a shift in skillset. Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics and data proliferation will all bring a different dimension to the more traditional skills the market has consumed previously.
Other potential difficulties in terms of talent acquisition could be due to the uncertainty or lack of longer-term visibility of projects and therefore organisations reluctant to hire in ahead of the curve. Equally, students may not choose to commit their time to studying for qualifications if they can’t see actual career opportunities and apprenticeships are still limited in the sector. Whilst candidate attraction may not currently be an issue competition is set to be fierce, with everyone trying to source the top talent in the industry.
Thankfully the on-shore wind industry isn’t looking like it will grow at the scale of off-shore so there will be the opportunity to look at gaining transferable skills. Engineering, system design, control systems, robotics and AI are all skills similar in other sectors like onshore electricity generation, transmission and distribution, and the offshore oil and gas sector.
Oil and gas in particular have seen a number of job losses over the past four years (though this has slowed recently), across several highly skilled roles (geoscientists, mariners, technicians, etc) so could be rich pickings for offshore wind. Equally, 14,000 people leave the armed forces each year – many of whom are engineers and technicians working across electrical, mechanical, communications and marine engineering – so could also be a good potential pipeline of candidates.
To meet the predicted employment numbers, talent attraction and skills development will need to engage closely with the right candidates. To keep the UK at the forefront of off-shore wind development and deployment we’ll see more need for skills like leadership, working in confined spaces, working at heights, team working and candidates for roles across Asset Management, Project Management, Engineering (mechanical, electrical, blade and turbine technicians), IT (networking, data security), Science (marine biology, geophysics, hydrography, oceanography) will become ever more important. That’s where ALLEN & YORK can help.
Having worked across all areas of the Energy sector for over 26 years, ALLEN & YORK have a pedigree for finding the best candidates in the market – from across the entire candidate pool in the UK and worldwide. We understand the sector and the challenges faced within it so are uniquely placed to partner with organisations looking to hire in this exciting and innovative field.
Skills and Labour Requirements of the UK Offshore Wind Industry 2018 to 2032 (https://www.euskills.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Aura-EU-Skills-UK-Offshore-Wind-Skills-Study-Full-Report-October-2018.pdf)