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Employment opportunities opening up for energy professionals

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A shortage of skills in the low carbon sector is holding the door open for graduates and professionals from other sectors who want to make a difference

A skills gap in the energy sector is providing an opportunity for jobseekers to ensure the UK meets its carbon budgets in the 2020s, a survey of energy professionals has found.

According to the Energy Barometer Survey, published by the Energy Institute on 23 June, investment in the energy sector is under threat from constant policy changes and skills shortages.1.

The survey revealed serious concerns over skills shortages in almost every aspect of the energy sector in 2015, except for North Sea oil and gas which could face shortages after 2020. The “resounding message” was one of greatest shortages in low carbon sectors, notably new nuclear power, unconventional oil and gas, and heat networks, behaviour change, industrial process efficiency, energy storage, smart grid and distributed generation.

Most skill shortages were seen as likely to ease only slightly over the next 5 years, except fossil fuel generation and interconnectors. In general, those with greatest shortages tend to coincide with those most vulnerable to investment risk, it says.

However, the skills shortage represents a major and growing opportunity for career opportunities. Solutions to the shortage include making the sector more attractive to graduates, for those willing to retrain from other sectors, and retaining staff longer before retirement to ensure knowledge is passed on. To retain knowledge, mentoring (83%), and graduate programmes (54%), a dedicated ‘knowledge manager’ function (38%), and technical exit interviews (21% were highlighted most.

The survey assessed members’ views on key challenges and opportunities at a crucial time during the energy sector’s decarbonisation, following electricity market reforms and a change of government. It found that without an influx of skilled employment, existing energy and climate policies will not be enough to meet the UK’s carbon budgets in the 2020s.

The top ten challenges identified are energy policy, supply security, public engagement, investment and cost, low-carbon energy, natural gas and oil, sustainability and climate change, people and skills, energy demand and efficiency and low oil prices.

A stand-out finding is that, given current policies, members do not believe the UK’s third and fourth carbon budgets will be met and that achieving them will need much greater effort. The credibility gap grows over time, with more than eight in ten members believing the UK will not achieve its 2050 greenhouse gas reduction goal of 80% relative to 1990.

There is also a lack of confidence that the forthcoming Paris UN climate agreement will keep global warming below 2°C, although most believe such an agreement would not damage competitiveness. 

1.Energy barometer 2015: Views from UK energy professionals

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