“Talk to us about shaping your future today,” businesses told more than 400 students investigating apprenticeships, training and skills development options at an event that brought young people together with energy industry employers.
Skills for Energy 2018, hosted by the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR), gathered more than 25 employers, from offshore wind developers to oil & gas and nuclear training specialists, as well as supply chain companies that offer apprenticeship training, to meet and discuss possible careers with students.
More than 12 schools and colleges across Norfolk and Suffolk bussed the students, aged between 15 and 21, to Skills for Energy 2018 at East Coast College in Great Yarmouth, the energy capital of England.
The energy industry is facing critical skills shortages as the oil & gas industry picks up with the rejuvenation of gas production in the southern North Sea, and also in the fast-developing offshore wind sector off the east coast and in nuclear with Sizewell C on the horizon.
There is also massive potential for engineering-based roles in dismantling and removing redundant platforms in the multi-billion decommissioning market in the North Sea now the UK oil & gas industry is in its second half-century.
To meet recruitment targets for all sectors, the industry is focusing on making careers more attractive to new entrants, and particularly to women, who currently make up only 10% of the energy engineering workforce.
Graham Evans, who works with premier oil & gas training organisation OPITO, with Steph Crawford, OPITO’s marketing and communications manager, said female apprentices could carve successful and rewarding careers that can take them across the world.
More than 300,000 people currently work in and support the oil & gas sector across the UK after the downturn and the “cautious optimism” within the industry means companies are looking to recruit.
Mr Evans said: “With so much high-tech engineering today, engineering is no longer the ‘dirty’ industry some people think it is. It’s all about problem-solving and innovation. But fewer than 10% of engineers in the industry are women and that simply has to change.”
Miss Crawford said last year’s intake for OPITO’s apprenticeship residential course in Aberdeen was 40% higher than the previous year as industry sponsorship increased, reflecting the industry’s pick up.
Alongside oil & gas, billions of pounds are being invested in offshore wind farms off the Norfolk and Suffolk coast – and all around the UK coast with potential to export skills around the world in the growing industry – as the region leads the drive for clean, low-carbon energy.
Skills for Energy exhibitors included offshore wind developers ScottishPower Renewables, EEEGR’s platinum sponsor, and sponsor of a number of students at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and places on the new Offshore Wind Skills Centre, Vattenfall, also working with students at the UEA and colleges, and Orsted, turbine manufacturers Siemens, oil & gas operator Perenco, the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB), owners of the world’s biggest jack-up vessel Seajacks, 3sun Group, Stowen Group and EDF, that trains apprentices for the nuclear industry.
Gemma Head, manager of the Skills for Energy Programme at EEEGR, said: “What this event demonstrates is the strong partnership between industry and education, sending a united message about opportunities and how young people can access them. Bringing young people to talk to employers face-to-face is the best way for information to be conveyed to them and for relationships to be built.
“The interest of the students has been phenomenal. You can see their eyes light up when they hear about the diverse range of careers offered by the industry.
“These careers are exciting and challenging, and they offer broad horizons for progression, travel and a bright future.”
Beth Hamilton, senior logistics coordinator for Seajacks, said: “We put people through cadetship courses and send them back to college when they have had required sea-time because we like to promote them up the ranks.
“They all get to train and they don’t come out with student debt. It’s a really good career with excellent prospects. If they are happy to be away from home, they will have that home time to travel and enjoy their time off.