Personnel professionals have been urged to work with partners to address skills gaps and realise the potential for the offshore wind industry to transform the Humber.
That was the message from executives of Siemens, which is creating offshore wind manufacturing and assembly facilities in Hull, and other speakers at the first conference focused on workforce recruitment and training and development issues posed by the region’s burgeoning renewables sector.
Mike Jones, Siemens’ UK Human Resources Director for Energy, spelled out the scale of the gaps in engineering and technical skills vital to the offshore wind industry and many other sectors.
He said an example was the shortfall in engineering apprentices. There was annual need for 69,000 level 3 engineering apprenticeships in the UK, but the number had actually fallen from 27,000 to 23,500. At level 4, the annual demand for engineers was 87,000, but the supply was just 47,000.
He told the Transforming the Humber conference, staged by the Humber branch of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development (CIPD): “The situation is not sustainable. Unless we do something about the skills gaps we’ll have some big issues.
“The bottom line is that, if we want to meet the challenges of the next 10 years, we have to double the number of engineers coming through each year.”
“Growing our own is a fundamental part of what we do, but only a part. It’s also about working with our partners in the region and across the UK.”
He also praised the work of Energy and Utility Skills, an employer-led membership organisation that ensures businesses in these sectors have the skills they need, now and in the future.
“We sit around the table with our competitors and also our customers to work on a common skills agenda,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for employers to join a collaborative effort.”
Siemens’ Hull Project Director Finbarr Dowling gave the conference an overview of the investment at Alexandra Dock and said it was an opportunity to drive innovation and reduce costs.
He said: “Innovation and investment in places such as Hull will, we believe, enable us to make turbine blades better, faster and of higher quality. That will, ultimately, drive down the cost of electricity from offshore wind.
“The industry needs to invest and to improve its quality and productivity and we believe, in Siemens, we can do that exceptionally well here on the Humber.”
Other speakers at the conference echoed the importance of partnerships, and stressed the need for the development of a talent “pipeline” through employers engaging with young people from primary age onwards.