Wales & West Utiliites is among 29 leading organisations – the Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership – that have developed the Workforce Renewal & Skills Strategy. Released in February 2017, the Skills Strategy is the first-ever coherent strategic plan for the continued delivery of clean water, waste removal, power and gas to 65 million people every day across Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland.

The energy and utilities sector is responsible for the largest share of the national infrastructure delivery pipeline, so its success is vital to the productivity and growth of the UK economy.

Wales & West Utilities is working hard with its fellow Skills Partnership members to “ensure a safe, skilled and sustainable workforce provides the essential services that our customers seek and meets the UK’s needs from the energy and utilities infrastructure.” 

As part of delivering the Skills Strategy’s aims, during the last twelve months alone Wales & West Utilities has recruited 21 apprentices and two graduates, representing an investment of more than £400,000 to help keep communities across Wales and the south west of England safe and warm.The companies coveted Apprenticeship programme will be opening its 2018 recruitment window shortly.

Since starting operations in 2005 the company has recruited more than 160 apprentices in total, with more than 15 per cent of the company’s operational team having joined as apprentices. Alongside the graduate programme, this is a key part of the company’s investment in people to make sure that it has the skills, confidence and innovative thinking to face future challenges.

These achievements are important due to the challenges the sector faces. Its ageing workforce means that within a decade almost 20% of its 500,000 employees could retire, and will need to be replaced. With a further 90,000 of the workforce set to move to other sectors and 31,000 new roles to be created, the sector will need to recruit 221,000 people by 2027 to have a sustainable and resilient workforce. Many of these new recruits will need more advanced technical skills as the UK moves towards a smart energy system. However the sector is facing a further skills challenge: 36% of its vacancies are proving hard to fill due to a lack of skilled applicants. This is the highest percentage across all sectors in the UK; the average is 23%.

Graham Edwards, Chief Executive of Wales & West Utilities, the gas emergency and pipeline service across Wales and the south west of England said:

“Gas networks have a key role to play in delivering a value for money, secure and sustainable energy future and preparing our business – and our industry, to face the challenges of the future is a key business priority for us.

“At Wales & West Utilities, we’ve recruited almost 170 apprentices since we started operations in 2005 – with more to be recruited in 2018 so we can continue to deliver outstanding levels of safety, reliability and service to the millions of people we serve every day. We’re looking forward to continuing to work alongside other utilities as part of the Energy and Utilities Workforce Renewal and Skills Strategy to make sure that as an industry we can attract and retain a workforce that not only help build, manage and maintain the networks of the future but also deliver the levels of service that our customers expect.”