UK power professionals are in a good place, but utilities providers should not be complacent about workforce challenges

UK Power Professionals - Airswift
The latest Global Energy Talent Index highlights improved happiness in the power industry but skills gaps remain a challenge

Improved happiness in the power industry but skills gaps and talent retention remain a challenge

When it comes to happiness for professionals in the UK power sector, the needle is moving in the right direction. Our recent GETI survey revealed this is mainly down to the benefits of digitalisation and flexible working. But, it’s also worth noting that more than half of professionals reported a pay rise in the last year, which could contribute to this optimism.

But that’s only part of the story. Although the majority of professionals are positively disposed to automation and digitalisation, there is a significant concern about reduction of human judgement or knocks to job security. Furthermore, when asked about the biggest challenges of the next few years, it was a more familiar set of concerns that floated to the surface, as over half of the professionals (51%) and hiring managers (60%) surveyed, disclosed worries about the skills gap.

This concern is substantiated by some puzzling data from power professionals. Despite their apparent happiness, financial success and optimism, a lot of UK power sector professionals actually have itchy feet: 65% are keen on a regional transfer and 69% would consider switching sector entirely. It must be frustrating for utilities: professionals are happy and well-rewarded, they are seemingly doing everything right, yet still face these risks.

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So, what can utilities do to help with this looming skills gap?

Being creative about how to offer international opportunities could help attract and retain staff, especially those professionals considering moving region. Similarly, those interested in other sectors could perhaps be assigned to work on projects that align with those interests. For example, the renewables sector was the most popular destination, and the trend towards distributed energy means more power workers may get the chance to work with renewable projects.

Finding the future skills mix

Utilities should also think about the types of skills they will need to attract in coming years. Skills such as cyber security, data protection and compliance, and data analytics will be on the rise, potentially helping broaden recruitment horizons and decreasing the skills gap in turn.

There are already many positive signs with many utilities are implementing improved training and development programmes. However, that can only upskill existing talent, not attract new professionals, so perhaps more utilities should partner with colleges and universities and build out graduate schemes and apprenticeships to overcome the issue.

Keeping everyone happy will never be feasible, so the power sector should be pleased with its success in creating a happy, well-remunerated workforce even as digitalisation and automation change the landscape. The sector’s workforce challenges are significant, but far from insurmountable. There are exciting times ahead for the UK power sector and every reason to be optimistic.

Want to find out more about the power sector and the challenges it may be facing? Download the GETI report here.

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