Energy skills gap must be bridged, warns Prospect

Energy skills gap must be bridged, warns Prospect

The government’s energy policy statements on nuclear, clean coal and renewables have been strongly welcomed by Prospect, the union for 21,000 scientists and engineers in the nuclear and energy industry.

“We welcome the balance across all energy sources,” said Paul Noon, Prospect General Secretary. “These new-build projects – whether in nuclear, clean coal or renewables – will create thousands of high-quality new jobs at the construction and operation stages. As well as addressing the wider low-carbon energy challenge, the benefit to local communities will be good news in these harsh economic times.

“But proactive government involvement is essential to deliver the scientists and engineers that the industry needs. That means proper long-term planning, training and investment in the skills needed to ensure these projects can go ahead. The right people, with the right skills, must be in place if this huge expansion is to happen.”

Sector skills council Cogent has warned the nuclear industry will need at least 1,000 new recruits a year to maintain current levels of generation to 2025 and beyond. Britain currently receives 15 per cent of its electricity from nuclear power, and the government wants to increase this to 25 per cent by 2025 – a huge challenge, warned Noon.

“It is vital that government marries up its energy policy with its skills policy. Government action is just as important on skills as it is on the finance and planning issues surrounding the expansion of low-carbon energy sources,” said Noon. “Good work is going on through the sector skills councils and skills academies, but government must co-ordinate this work and ensure it is delivered on time to meet the needs of new build. It is also vital that we have continuity of policy after the election.

“It is tragic that several employers – including the Magnox reactor sites and UK Atomic Energy Authority – have had to shed hundreds of skilled engineering and science jobs because of the shortfall in decommissioning funding. There is an urgent need for joined-up thinking to bridge the gap between job loss today and new-build recruitment tomorrow.”