Prospect attended the inaugural Energy and Clean Growth Northern Powerhouse conference in early November.
The conference, held at the Bonus Arena in Hull, brought together the 11 Northern Powerhouse Local Enterprise Partnerships* (LEPs), along with businesses, universities, and, uniquely, a trade union!
We attended this conference because the Northern Powerhouse is a vital part of tackling the climate crisis, and trade unions are a critical part of meeting the challenge.
It is our members and future members who are at the heart of driving positive change, and we need to ensure that their voice is heard.
Attending conferences like this, along with a stall, is not something that unions normally do. However, we asked ourselves, why shouldn’t trade unions be here? We bring expertise, and an ability to address sector challenges.
Although ostensibly, all of the companies and LEPs are working together, in reality, there is some competition for resources. Prospect are able to surmount that, and look at how we can meet the challenge holistically, across regions and industries.
One example is the skills agenda. Our Prospect research officer, Nick Kardahji spoke about the skills issues in the sector.
It is clear that individual companies cannot tackle the issue on their own, but the confusing and constantly changing skills environment can lead to companies competing for skilled workers.
We believe that a more coordinated approach needs to be taken, with companies contributing accordingly, which not only develops the workers of the future, but also enables workers in other parts of the energy sector to transition to renewables seamlessly, in a job to job transition.
We received a very positive reception from visitors to our stand, and was encouraged that a number of delegates were Prospect members.
"It's great to see a trade union here!"
"We think unions should be more involved in these events."
"Are you going to do more events?"
Several things are clear from the conference:
- Substantial coordination and funding support from central government is required to meet zero carbon targets (and moving beyond a numerical target, to reduce as far as possible climate impacts).
- There is a long way to go to improve diversity in the sector, despite some laudable achievements so far.
- There is a burgeoning skills shortage, which needs to be tackled in a coordinated way across the sector.
- There are significant threats to industrial, high energy intensity manufacturing jobs across the North. However, it is possible to both protect jobs and tackle climate change. This will not happen, though, without coordinated investment, a comprehensive skills package, and putting workers voices at the heart of change.
Our experience of attending the conference was a positive one. It was great to meet our members in the renewables industry, and we will be attending future conferences, and we will continue to advocate for policies that protect jobs and tackle the climate crisis.
* Cheshire and Warrington, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Humber, Lancashire, Leeds City Region, Liverpool City Region, North East, Sheffield City Region, Tees Valley, York, North Yorkshire and East Riding. North Wales is defined as covering: Wrexham, Rhyl, Colwyn Bay, Llandudno and Bangor.