A concerted effort to drive the transfer of engineering skills from one sector to another will be key to enabling UK industry to recover from Covid-19 according to a report published by construction industry skills body, the ECITB (The Engineering Construction Industry Training Board).
The report – Skills Transferability in the Engineering Construction Industry – sheds light on the similarities in skills and competences of engineers in the many sectors that support Britain’s energy and processing infrastructure, from renewables to oil and gas, nuclear and pharmaceuticals. It also identifies barriers to skills transferability, such as ingrained workplace attitudes and recruitment practices that compartmentalise trades and occupations unnecessarily and place unhelpful restriction on the mobility of workers.
With the most severe economic impact from Covid-19 felt in the oil and gas industry – a sector already under pressure – the ECITB asserts that with proper planning and coordination, the pandemic presents an opportunity to accelerate transition to a carbon-free economy. It warns however that failure to act quickly, risk the loss of thousands of engineers who have the requisite skills to deliver decarbonisation.
In response, the ECITB is calling on the UK, Welsh and Scottish governments to put in place measures to support the reskilling of oil and gas workers for jobs in other sectors and industries to support the transition away from fossil fuels.
This is imperative because the oil and gas sector has already shed 7,500 jobs with Oil and Gas UK predicting up to 30,000 job losses over the next 12-18 months. And forecasts show we could need at least 40,000 new workers with skills relevant to renewable energy, hydrogen fuel and carbon capture technologies to decarbonise the UK’s industrial clusters over the next decade. However, too few new skilled workers and young people entering the industry mean recruitment is insufficient to meet demand and there is a pressing need to re-skill and redeploy workers from other sectors.
Chris Claydon, Chief Executive of the ECITB, said: “Before the pandemic hit, the UK’s engineering construction industry faced persistent skills shortages and despite the economic downturn and current pressures, our expectation is that overall workforce demand will continue to exceed supply over the coming decades. While skills transferability is pursued to a limited extent through the UK Government’s National Retraining Scheme, with careful planning and greater focus on sectoral needs, many highly skilled roles that are transferable across engineering construction sectors could be more easily moved. Economic pressures from Covid-19 and oil price depression could see the UK haemorrhage skilled workers. The government needs to act quickly on this dual opportunity to deliver against our net zero commitment and prevent lasting unemployment in our industrial heartlands.”