Northern Gas Networks, Northumbrian Water and Northern Powergrid joined 29 other energy and utilities employers this week to launch a long-term commitment to attract more diverse and inclusive talent into their industry, reflecting the communities they serve.
The Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership, led by 28 of the country’s leading sector employers, recognised in its Workforce Renewal Skills Strategy: 2020 that its current workforce fails to fully represent the 65 million people it serves every day. It has been joined by an additional four organisations in making today’s pledge.
83% of the sector’s workforce are male, compared to 47% for all sectors nationally. Women, people with disabilities, the BAME community and under 24s have traditionally been under-represented in the energy and utilities sector, compared to national averages.
The three companies, along with Yorkshire Water, which is also a signatory of the pledge, are part of Infrastructure North, which collectively serves more than 8 million people – around 13% of the UK population.
Bryony Slatter, Diversity & Inclusion Lead at Northern Gas Networks, said: “To meet the challenges of the UK’s future energy mix, it’s essential we build a diverse and inclusive workforce that represents the communities we’re working within.
“At Northern Gas Networks we’re fully committed to ensuring colleagues meet their potential irrespective of age, gender, disability, sexuality or background.
“We’re also continuing to work with schools across our network to encourage greater uptake of STEM subjects, and more women and colleagues from different backgrounds into our business. We’re speaking to our education stakeholders to understand how we can do this even better.”
Alison Corner, Employee Engagement Manager at Northumbrian Water, said: “We are passionate about attracting, supporting and retaining a diverse workforce. Being truly inclusive and representative of our communities is essential if we are to achieve the ambitious goals we have set ourselves for the future, in areas including customer experience, affordability and innovation. This is an important commitment working with others in the sector to really drive change and we look forward to continuing to see improvements in the diversity of the water industry and beyond.”
Becky Robson, Northern Powergrid’s Head of People, said: “Welcoming people from different backgrounds with different ideas, views and approaches is key as it enriches our business and helps us create a workforce that better reflects the communities we serve across our region.
“We’re proud to be part of this industry-wide commitment which complements our work to promote the diverse careers in the energy industry. Through our partnerships, we’re focused on showcasing, to people who may not have considered being part of our sector, the wide range of opportunities available. We want them to see how they can be part of an industry that is innovating in smart technologies, delivering more for customers and offering attractive career prospect.”
To tackle this challenge, and to build a resilient workforce for the future, the 32 leading employers have committed themselves to drive change and work collaboratively to attract, recruit and retain a more diverse talent to the sector. Employing around 566,000 people across the UK, the sector will need over 221,000 new recruits to fill its expected skills gap by 2027.
The commitment will challenge the sector to act and think differently and aims to inspire and connect with underrepresented groups, attracting new talent and ideas into the energy and utilities industry. It is underpinned by five principles* that commit to working collaboratively and sharing best practice, whilst creating an inclusive culture that enables us to attract, recruit and develop our people in a way where progress can be measured and transparent.
Proactively working with and attracting under-represented talent will be crucial to ensuring a resilient, future-proofed workforce that is a vital part of improving UK productivity and growth. Government will invest more than £425 billion in over 600 major projects across the UK (to 2020/21 and beyond). Nearly half the projects in this pipeline are assigned to electricity, gas, water & sewerage, and waste, making the energy and utilities sector the largest single contributor to government’s UK infrastructure strategy.
Nick Ellins, Chief Executive, Energy & Utility Skills Group said: “Through the inaugural skills strategy, led by the Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership, the UK’s utilities and their contractors have set out their ambition to enhance the diversity of their workforces and be ever more inclusive. This new commitment is a framework. It starts the collective action to help the sector workforce better mirror the communities it serves and secure the unquestionable benefits that result from having vibrant, truly inclusive and diverse teams.”
Basil Scarsella, Chair of the Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership Council said: “The Inclusion Commitment is an opportunity for all of us in the Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership to develop workforces that reflect the communities we all serve and tackle the challenge of increasing diversity head on. We are very keen to share best practice and drive change through proactive, transparent measures.”