SSE warns of skill shortage in the energy industry

SSE is warning of a skill shortage in the energy industry with around 50% of the sector’s workforce expected to retire by 2023.

Ahead of National Apprenticeship Week (9 to 13 March 2015) the energy firm says around 208,000 people will need to be recruited to plug the gap, and it is vital firms invest in apprentices now to ensure the UK has the skilled workforce needed to deliver the major investments required for the future. 

John Stewart, SSE Director of Human Resources, said: “Apprenticeships put young people on track for a first rate career and with around 50% of the sector’s workforce set to retire by 2023, there is a need to invest now.

“We’re boosting our apprentice numbers by 20 percent, investing £11.68m - an average of £80,000 per trainee – to recruit and train the workforce of the future. What’s more, apprenticeship programmes work for the country as well as young people and business. 

“Research we’ve carried out with PwC tells us for every £1 we spend on our apprenticeship programme the net economic impact on society is £4.29. Our apprenticeship programme is open now and we’d urge young people to consider a career in the energy industry and invest in their own future.”

Every year since 2007 over 100 new apprentices have joined SSE’s apprenticeship programme. They help maintain 205,000km of power lines, work in wind farms, hydro stations and thermal plants, and help maintain commercial and domestic electrical systems.

Laura Sneddon is a 30-year-old Technical Skills Trainee (TST) with SSE’s Power Distribution business (SSEPD). She discovered SSE’s trainee scheme whilst browsing on Twitter during a gap year in Australia and loves the unpredictable nature of her job. 

She said: “The apprenticeship can take you anywhere – one day you might be out on a job and the next day you could be planning another, or learning about another part of the business. You spend time with jointers, liners and fitters, you undertake managerial-based placements and you spend around 13 weeks of the year studying for your degree.

“I am 30 at the moment, but a lot of people on my course are in their 20s, to think by the time they reach my age they will have 10 years’ of experience behind them is quite something. I love my job and when I meet my friends I am always talking about the different things that I do.”

SSE offers apprenticeship programmes lasting three to four years in nine different areas ranging from contracting (electrical, mechanical and heating and vent) Power Distribution (overhead lines, fitting and jointing), Generation (electrical, Mechanical and C and I) and home services (gas engineers). 

It puts trainees through foundation degrees as well as giving them work experience across the business. Graduates then join a two year rotational programme to develop their skills and experience and become professional engineers. 

SSE is also taking steps to support potential transmission engineers who want to live and work in the Highlands. In partnership with the University of the Highlands and Islands SSE has helped develop and will sponsor six places on a new BEng Power Engineering degree.

Since 2007, more than 800 apprentices have been hired by SSE, which represents an overall investment of £64m.