Bridging the gap

It’s been seven years since I joined the energy industry and, while that’s significant to me, I’m in no doubt I’m still considered to be a relative novice in comparison to the long-service of many of my colleagues.

This wealth of experience is no bad thing – as an industry we depend on it on a daily basis – but a more pressing concern is how we can encourage fresh talent to join the sector, learning from the experience of others to help meet the challenges of a future energy market.

I represent SSE on the Energy and Utilities Skills Partnership – a cross-industry group that seeks to encourage more people to consider a career in these sectors.  The industry has come together through this partnership to launch a Workforce Renewal and Skills Strategy to ensure a secure and sustainable workforce is in place to meet the requirements of the UK’s energy and utilities sectors in the years to come.

It has been well reported that we need to do more to bring people into the industry. According to our own research 50% of the energy industry’s workforce is due to retire by 2023 and we need to recruit 208,000 people to plug this skills gap. To help achieve this target the industry needs to make significant changes and a collaborative approach, as outlined in the strategy, is the only way to achieve this.

Research from Energy and Utilities Skills Partnership shows 60% per cent of all jobs in the UK in the next 10 years will need a STEM skillset.  And the competition for candidates with these qualifications is fierce. Only 1% of STEM higher education leavers currently choose to enter the UK energy and utilities sectors, with fewer than 5% of engineering graduates employed within them.

That is why the industry is working together to redress this balance and promote the positives a career in energy and utilities can offer. It will be looking at how we attract people to study STEM subjects and to choose a career in our sectors.

At SSE we’ve committed to increasing our future talent pool, upskilling our workforce throughout their careers and anticipating and resolving any skills shortages through forecasting and planning. Since 2007 SSE has recruited more than 1,000 apprentices to help train the workforce of the future.

More than half of the Government’s National Infrastructure Plan focuses on decarbonising the economy and realising the ‘industrial opportunities for the UK economy of energy innovation’. SSE is already putting measures in place to drive forward the low carbon agenda, and innovation is at the heart of our strategy. Working with the Skills Partnership will help to make sure that we, and the industry, have a strong sustainable workforce is in place to deliver this programme.

The skills strategy is rightly taking a concerted effort to help restore the gender and diversity imbalance that is currently in place in our industry. According to official figures only 15% of industry jobs are held by women and only 4% are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities.

We know we have an important role to attract under-represented groups into the industry. And SSE is putting measures in place to make sure we have a workforce that represents society at large and we will work with the other organisations to make sure we progress this commitment.

We are proud to be a member of the new Skills Partnership. It compliments our own ambitions to attract talent to SSE and help build an energy industry that is challenging, rewarding and ready for the future.

For more information on the Skills Partnership please visit
SSE is currently recruiting for Trainee Engineers and Apprentices. For more information, visit

About the author

Colin Nicol Managing Director, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks

Colin Nicol is Managing Director, Networks. He joined SSE in 2010 and is responsible for SSE’s electricity networks. Colin represents the Networks business at the Executive Committee.

Read more articles by Colin Nicol