Responding to a record fall in net migration, a new report from the REC highlights that a post-Brexit exodus of skilled foreign workers is deepening the skills shortage in engineering.
Contrary to general opinion, the operatives working in trenches, laying cables and making connections to substations are not unskilled labourers but qualified technicians. As is the case with their colleagues working elsewhere in the network, their numbers are dwindling due to an ageing workforce and under investment in training. Now, a decline in the number of foreign operatives is exacerbating the problem.
As these industries become ever more technical, the need for skilled workers is growing. Without them, not only is the electricity supply threatened but so too are the country’s gas and water networks.
There have been some welcome initiatives by government such as Trailblazer apprenticeships, the apprenticeship levy and investment in AI in academia. Meanwhile, in the private sector, we are working with leading employers to develop new kinds of training programmes and strategies to attract young people to engineering and equip them with the increasingly technical skills they will need.
However, despite efforts by industry, it is already clear the government will fail to meet its targets for smart meter installation due to a shortage of skilled operatives. That is more embarrassing than calamitous. It is clear much more needs to be done to avoid far more serious consequences in the future.
CEO, Develop Training