THE BLOG

Tackle Energy Skills Gap Now or Face a Dark Future

01/04/2014 12:43 BST | Updated 28/05/2014 10:59 BST

How long could you go without electricity?

Most of us probably wouldn't last long, as we depend on for everything from using our fridges to watching Top Gear.

The majority of the UK's energy comes from fossil fuels like oil and gas, but the Government has been investing heavily in sustainable, renewable sources like wind turbines.

In fact, German manufacturer Siemens recently announced that they are going to invest £310m into wind turbine factories, creating 1000 new jobs. That's great news, but it still leaves us with one very large problem. Do we have people with the right skills for Siemens to hire?

Energy & Utility Skills (EU Skills) says the power industry faces losing 80 per cent of the current workforce by 2024, mainly due to retirement, and will need to hire at least 45,000 new employees by then.

That's why it's crucial that the next generation is trained up in these skills, or we risk a major crisis.

We know that fossil fuels are in short supply. Countries all over the world have no choice but to invest in renewable energy sources like solar and wind power.

It would be an enormous waste of resources to create the turbines only to abandon them because we don't have enough people who can operate them.

One way to help bridge the gap is through apprenticeships.

City & Guilds developed wind turbine apprenticeships in 2010 with EU Skills, which enables people to install, operate and maintain the turbines. Almost 200 students have already completed the apprenticeships, with nearly 300 currently enrolled. While they are starting to make a dent in the looming shortage, we still have a long way to go.

As Neil Robertson, Chief Executive of EU Skills, said:

'Without a workforce equipped with the skills to manage a changing renewable landscape, we risk being unable to keep the lights on in the future.'

If we don't act now to get more young people skilled, the UK could face, quite literally, a very dark future.