Recruiting women, ex-armed forces personnel and ethnic minorities to offshore wind careers is vital to sustain a workforce for the high-growth offshore wind sector, a recruitment specialist told a conference in the UK.
The offshore wind 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 hosted by the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR).
People are the key to industry growth, he said, particularly given that the UK is already short of 20,000 engineers and the offshore wind industry in the country needs 36,000 people by 2030 with 6,150 in the east of England, Mr Weir said. Women, former military and ethnic minorities should be targeted into an exciting new industry with what he said had huge potential.
“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,” Mr Weir said, noting that the east of England needed more people to achieve higher qualifications.
“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 explained.
The event’s focus on skills brought students from the University of East Anglia, 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 has expanded in three years from five internships to a budget for 50 next summer with developers and supply chain companies.
Mr Mullins said “It changed my outlook of the local area.” 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, describe 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. UEA postgraduates Jim Rijks, Tim Minshall and Ben Smith all won sponsorship by ScottishPower Renewables for their postgraduate engineering and climate change courses.
ScottishPower Renewables East Anglia One project execution director Chris Leach said businesses working with all ages of young people, from children to postgraduates 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 young people interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects.”