Recruiting women, ex-armed forces personnel and ethnic minorities to offshore wind careers is vital to sustain a workforce for the high-growth sector, says a leading talent analyst.
The industry faces fierce competition from other sectors at a time when the UK has the lowest unemployment for 40 years, John Weir, talent pipeline lead for Project Aura, told an event to celebrate Offshore Wind hosted by the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR).
The east of England is leading the way in offshore wind skills delivery with the new Offshore Wind Skills Centre at East Coast College at Great Yarmouth and the under-construction £11.3 million Engineering and Energy Skills Centre at Lowestoft due to open next year.
But people were the key to industry growth when the nation was already short of 20,000 engineers and the national offshore wind industry needed 36,000 people by 2030 with 6,150 in the east of England, Mr Weir said.
“Different sectors will be competing for the same people and the same skills that we want and we have to work hard to get people into the industry. The east of England needed more people to achieve higher qualifications,” he said.
“The east of England has many level 2 and 3 qualified people (up to A level) but not so many with higher level qualifications, level 4, 5 and 6. Scotland has flipped that with more level 4, 5 and 6 than level 2 and 3,” he said.
Women, former military and ethnic minorities should be targeted into an exciting new industry with huge potential.
The event’s focus on skills brought students from the University of East Anglia (UEA), East Coast College and East Norfolk Sixth Form College to the stage.
Former East Coast Energy Internship Programme A level students Rebecca Humphrey and Tommy Mullins told how the four-week summer programme had opened their eyes to the opportunities in the industry and the diversity of companies, innovation and technology within their community.
The internship programme, set up by John Best, has expanded in three years from five internships to a budget for 50 next summer with developers and supply chain companies.
Tommy said: “It changed my outlook of the local areas as one of huge potential.”
Students Jasmine Allen, 18, who was Energy Skills Foundation Programme Student of the Year last year, at the Lowestoft Campus of East Coast College, and Dylan Davies, also 18, who also completed the programme last year, told how the pioneering course, that includes site visits, employability skills, teamwork, speed interview sessions and presentation events had boosted their confidence, showcased career opportunities and progression and had inspired them to aim high.
Jasmine said: “I was not academic at school but was given a lifeline by an aeronautical course in which I gained a distinction.” With distinctions on every course since, she is aiming for a degree apprenticeship.”
UEA postgraduates Jim Rijks, Tim Minshall and Ben Smith all won sponsorship by ScottishPower Renewables for their postgraduate engineering and climate change courses.
Chris Leach, Project Execution Director, East Anglia ONE for ScottishPower Renewables, said businesses working with all ages of young people, from children to postgraduate was vital for the industry’s future.
“We will be building here in the east of England for many years and operating for many years after that – 30 to 40 years. We want to get children interested in STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects.”