Transforming our industry to prepare for the future

A year has passed since we partnered with the Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership to help develop and launch the first Workforce Renewal and Skills Strategy. Our collective vision as an industry is to ensure a safe, skilled and sustainable workforce to meet the UK’s needs from the energy and utilities sector.

As a sector we face a tough challenge ahead, with 20% of our industry’s workforce due to retire within the next decade. This means we need to find 221,000 new, skilled and enthusiastic recruits by 2027 to help us provide the essential services our customers seek, and the infrastructure the UK needs for sustainable, economic growth.

By attracting, recruiting and, most importantly, retaining a more diverse pipeline of employees into our businesses, we are already starting to address the skills gap and provide people with challenging and rewarding long-term careers. For example, we’ve been using our partnership with Teach First to work with 10 schools in areas where we’ve struggled to hire apprentices. This partnership is helping us provide young people with new skills and insight into the STEM industry, whilst gaining a new pool of talent for our business to recruit from.

We were delighted to see 14 of our Networks Apprentices complete the new Power Networks Craftsperson Apprenticeship Standard. The graduation was a proud moment for everyone involved, marking the culmination of a great deal of hard work with Energy & Utility Skills and the wider industry to develop the new Standard.

A key focus for SSE to tackle the looming skills gap is to address the gender and diversity balance across our business. We have supported Talent Source Network’s campaign to drive visibility of female apprenticeships from January to March of last year, highlighting a case study of one of our female apprentices to raise the visibility of the opportunities for all, breaking down the stereotypes surrounding our industry. The number of female graduates joining our teams increased from 17% in 2016 to 40% in 2017, but we recognise we still have a long way to go.

When we helped build and launch the Skills Strategy a year ago, we were delighted it complemented our own ambitions around diversity and inclusion. One of our highlights this past year was the publication of our Valuing Difference report. Working with Equal Approach, independent specialists in providing inclusion and diversity solutions, we carried out a ‘Return on Inclusion’ (ROI) exercise to calculate the financial value generated from our inclusion and diversity initiatives in 2014-2017. The analysis showed the financial return generated as £4.52 for every £1 invested. By refocusing our strategy on fewer, more important factors, the results for future ROI showed the potential to achieve a £15 return.

Our new Inclusion Strategy for 2017-2020 focuses on five key areas:

  • IN: Candidate attraction and recruitment
  • ON: Retention of talent and managing leavers to maintain positive brand exposure
  • ON: Embedding inclusive values throughout the organisation
  • ON: Mentoring, networks and partnerships
  • UP: Progression, promotion and creating opportunities

Our new strategy builds on our 2014-2017 core elements ‘IN, ON, UP’: Encouraging women IN to the business, supporting women to stay ON at SSE and helping women progress UP in the organisation. We believe the move from focusing on actions linked to specific individual characteristics, like gender, to truly embedding real inclusion throughout the organisation, will ensure SSE grows from strength to strength to meet the challenges of the future.

As an organisation committed to being a driver of long-term change, SSE became the first FTSE 100 company to publish its gender pay gap in line with the government’s new Gender Pay Gap Reporting requirements with Minister of State for Apprenticeships, Skills and Women Anne Milton welcoming this “excellent example for other employers as we build a stronger, fairer country where success is defined by work and talent, not gender or circumstance.”

Our efforts to generate greater gender diversity have also resulted in our inclusion in the 2018 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index (GEI), a benchmark for strong gender disclosures and best-in-class policies and practices. One of just six companies in the UK to join the GEI and one of only two energy companies, we truly believe open and honest disclosure of data is key to helping us understand how we can continue to improve and attract the right people to secure the future of the industry.

Finally, our contribution to SSE’s Human Capital report which measured the economic value of the skills and capabilities of our employees was recognised by the Energy & Utility Skills Partnership as “leading the way in the UK”. The results highlighted people as being SSE’s largest asset, with the company’s total human capital value totalling £3.4bn. A White Paper, written together with the Energy & Utility Skills Partnership demonstrates that both a company and society benefits from proper investment in its workforce.

The first anniversary of the Workforce Renewal and Skills Strategy provides us with a great opportunity to look back at our achievements over the past year. But we know this is only the beginning and there’s still a long way to go. By creating a truly inclusive culture within our business, attracting a diverse pipeline of talent, and valuing our people as our largest asset; we know we’re on the right track and look forward to working together as an industry to ensure we’re ready for the challenges we face to meet the UK’s needs from the energy and utilities sector.

About the author

Bev Keogh Director of Network Service at SSEPD

Bev joined SSE at the time of its merger with SWALEC in 2000. Prior to that, she had spent her career working with SWALEC in a variety of Customer Service roles, before taking up an engineering-focused role in 2010 as part of SSE's Networks team. Bev joined SSE Lighting Services later that year as deputy director and latterly held the position of Director of Regional Operations for the UK and Ireland, responsible for the delivery of regional contracts covering over 800,000 lighting points and for the strategic business growth of our Lighting Services business. Prior to her current role, Bev was Head of Operations for Southern Electric Power Distribution.

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