According to Develop Training Limited (DTL), one of the UK’s leading accredited training specialists in the utilities sector, workers in water, gas and electricity could command premier league-level salaries in the future if the skills shortage isn’t remedied.
DTL warns that changes in the education sector and other factors have left the construction and utilities industries ill-prepared to deal with the current skills gap.
Chris Wood, CEO, said: “Most people will be unaware of a looming catastrophe, one that threatens to literally turn Britain's lights out. The chronic skills shortage in the utilities, energy and construction industries means companies are fishing from the same small pool of talent, which is inevitably pushing up salaries.
“If the skills shortage isn’t tackled head on, those few who do have the skills and experience will become more and more valuable, as companies struggle to maintain the level of service consumers are currently receiving, and we’ll eventually see wage inflation to unsustainable levels, maybe even rivalling Premiership footballers.
“We desperately need to attract and train young people to take the places of the ageing workforce in these vital industries. If we can turn this situation around, we can have confidence that the lights will stay on, our heating will continue to warm our houses, and our taps will continue to provide running water. Otherwise, the day is fast approaching when there will simply not be enough workers available to perform these vital jobs. We are already seeing wage inflation as employers compete for a dwindling workforce, and that trend will continue until there is an upturn in the number of new recruits.”
DTL added that current training schemes within schools, colleges and the workplace are seemingly insufficient and not working, resulting in a mismatch between skills of workers being employed against the skills actually required.
Supporting this view, Chris Wood added: “School leavers and young people, as well as those currently unemployed, need to be made aware of the benefits of apprenticeships and the opportunities available in the utility sector. We also need to overcome prejudice against work that is seen as manual labour rather than vital, skilled work.
“In order to make this happen, the education system needs to engage school students early on, just as they used to, before universities were seen as the most accepted route of further education.”
To tackle this, DTL believes trailblazer apprenticeships should be encouraged. A trailblazer is made up of employers who work in partnership to develop new apprenticeship standards for jobs within their industries.
“The Trailblazer methodology is a potential game-changer in supporting the recruitment and training of the next generation of engineers and technicians,” Chris Wood said. “However, closing the skills gap and attracting suitably able people into these sectors requires wider action. Apprenticeships are seen by some as inferior to other channels of higher education such as the universities. This needs to change. In addition there needs to be a commitment on the part of employers to provide the financial rewards which are no less than those to be found elsewhere.”