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UK energy skills gap is ‘critical’ warns Siemens

November 19th, 2014

Siemens has said that a widening skills gap in the UK energy market is becoming “strategically critical”.

The German engineering giant is so concerned that it has produced a report highlighting the problem and offering key solutions.

In the report, Paul Maher, chairman of the Talent Management Board at Siemens, says that “in Europe, engineering has a status and recognition that is worlds apart from the culture and circumstances of the UK market and the UK must begin to address this lack”.

“What we need is a charm offensive on both educators and students across primary, secondary and tertiary education to grow that confidence.”Siemens UK energy skills report

Engineering UK has estimated that the UK will require at least 87,000 new engineers a year over the coming decade, yet in 2013 fewer than 50,000 engineers graduated from UK universities.

Matthew Knight, director of strategy and government affairs for Siemens Energy UK, says that as the energy market evolves and demand continues to grow across its sub-sectors, “the attraction, maintenance and retention of staff and skills will become industry-critical”.

And Alan Thomson, UKMEA leader for energy at Arup, warned that “the skills gap in the energy industry is a perfect storm – the result of a lack of long-lead skills, combined with a pressing need to renew and replace our ageing and inefficient energy systems. We are also reaching a point where many of our skilled workers are reaching retirement, and there is not enough talent to replace them.”

In the report, called ‘Skills in Energy: Bridging the Gap’, Maher writes that concern about the growth and development of skills in the UK energy market is nothing new to Siemens. “There are fewer and fewer graduates and appropriately qualified apprentices entering the market, and we are seeing ever stronger challenges to the retention and maintenance of staff. Indeed, it has been estimated that the industry loses one in four employees to adjacent markets.”

Maher says that the skills gap is about more than energy: “It is about a society having the skills to support the evolution of a 21st century economy. There is no doubt that if we are to invest billions to decarbonise industry we are going to need the skills and resources to do so.”

Siemens says that only one in six 11-16 year olds even know what engineers do and urges that “despite the heavy cost and initial debt burden of tertiary education, we need to show students that the benefits are worthwhile, in providing a career with value, integrity and long-term prospects”.

The company stresses that without resources dedicated to solving the skills problem it fears migration of local added value, where “shareholders may decide that countries like India and China, which are generating hundreds of thousands of engineers and scientists every year, may be a better place to base their operations”.

Maher concludes that closing the skills gap “is a call to arms – it is time to move beyond party politics and industrial competition and join forces to forge an effective and joined-up solution to the skills challenge we face”.

Click here to see the report in full.

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