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The role of apprenticeships in the energy and utilities Sector

Skills shortages in every corner of the economy

Lesley Callaghan Head of Human Resources at FCC Environment, one of 19 leading employers behind Energy & Utilities Jobs, takes a look at the role of Apprenticeships in the energy and utilities sector.

Skills shortages have rocked the UK over the past year, from a lack of heavy goods vehicle drivers to customer service, it seems the skills shortage has touched every corner of the economy.

This was no different for the waste and recycling sector; data from Energy & Utility Skills shows that there were over 15,300 job postings in the sector in the year ending 31 October 2021 – up by 50 per cent on the previous year.

Of course, these figures are only job postings, but they highlight that organisations’ recruitment needs have increased over the past year. One reason for this, amongst others, is migrant workers returning to the EU following the UK’s exit. There have been multiple sectors, including ours, which have called on Government to issue temporary worker visas to help manage the skills shortage in the short-term. More often than not, the response from Government has been to make these jobs more attractive to British workers, whether that is through increased wages, or improved working conditions. The reality is that delivering on either of is not always possible – we cannot control challenging weather conditions, for example, to shield our operators who are working outside to help keep the country running, come rain or shine.

There is, however, an alternative; one that can give people their first job or can help those looking to retrain and change careers – apprenticeships. The data from Energy & Utility Skills shows that of the 15,300 jobs posted, just 180 of them were apprenticeships, around 1.2 per cent. It is widely acknowledged that our sector is an ageing one, and there is a real need for us to attract, recruit and retain younger workers – and particularly those at the margins of our society that need opportunities to develop their skills and have better access into meaningful employment. As an individual waste and recycling management company, and as a sector, we must do more to find, engage and upskill the next generation of workers – amongst these, the future maintenance engineers vital for keeping our energy from waste plants in operation, and the heavy goods vehicle technicians we all so desperately need to – quite literally – help drive the sector forward. Never has this been more mission-critical as we look to increase the amount of materials we recycle, while minimising the waste we send to landfill, turning these into valuable energy resources to power our homes and businesses.

At FCC Environment, we have a long-standing commitment to providing career growth and bright futures through our apprenticeships. We have seen first-hand the value they provide to our people and our business, and I would encourage our peers across the sector to make the same commitment as we look to address skills shortages, diversify our workforces and help the country meet its recycling and Net Zero goals.

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Apprenticeships are a great alternative for those looking for paid employment while developing their skills and experience – particularly for those seeking to leave full-time education, but who still need opportunities for learning and growth. Some of these may not feel the well-trodden path of higher and / or further education is the right one for them – but they still deserve the opportunity to gain useful skills and access employment that gives them both an income and opens up their future potential.

There are of course clear benefits for employers as well: data from the National Apprenticeship Service shows that 96% of employers with apprentices have experienced at least one benefit from taking on apprentices, and most can count at least eight benefits – these can range from reduced staff turnover to increased morale for other staff as apprentices’ contagious enthusiasm rubs off on other staff members. 

There is a range of apprenticeships in many different companies across the sector. So if you’re looking to kick start a career with purpose that will help the country tackle climate change, join a sector that society can’t function without. Apply now.

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