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New technologies, more regulation and additional compliance requirements mean skills gaps in energy will continue to exist.

Competition for energy skills is global and in the UK there remains a lack of power system engineers, substation design engineers and other distribution network operator engineers in T&D and too few scientists and engineers with expertise in low carbon energy generation and system design. More experienced project managers, controllers and maintenance technicians are also needed.

There have been many corporate restructures at energy companies during the economic downturn as employers have streamlined their businesses. But skills gaps are now being identified as the number of projects feeding through increases. Many T&D roles remain empty because the skills are no longer in-house.

  Request your copy of the 2014 Hays Energy Salary Guide

More mechanical and process engineers with experience working on large combined cycle gas turbines (CCGT) plants are required in power generation, and in renewables it is difficult to find engineers with relevant industry experience because the technologies are still fairly new. Pay levels are also lower in renewables so candidates tend to steer towards the oil and gas and petro-chemical sectors to maximise their earnings.

“At the moment companies are relying largely on attracting people who have a passion for renewables, but pay will need to increase to attract UK engineers. Currently a lot of talented individuals are being recruited from Asia and Africa,” says Ankit Nangalia of Hays Energy.

A shortage of talent is one of the offshore oil and gas sector’s biggest challenges. This will encourage more collaboration between companies as well as a wider search for candidates with transferable skills. The industry must also continue to lobby government to encourage changes to immigration policy which is affecting recruitment from non-EU countries.

In the nuclear sector, people with the skills to decommission the UK’s ageing nuclear plants are hard to find.

Cogent, a Skills Council for nuclear, petroleum and chemical sectors, has unveiled a skills strategic action plan to develop modular qualifications and training standards to re-skill and up-skill workers in nuclear. People with higher level skills including Foundation Degrees and Diplomas are desperately needed and the action plan includes the development of a suite of National Occupational Standards and vocational qualifications for the nuclear industry.

Nangalia says nuclear faces the additional problem of not being able to recruit from certain countries because it can be difficult to get security clearance. This has made it harder to find experienced nuclear safety case engineers, for instance.

The ageing workforce across energy threatens to make the skill shortage worse if the industry does not act. It could mean older and relatively expensive employees will have to be persuaded to work beyond their preferred retirement age.
  Request your copy of the 2014 Hays Energy Salary Guide

According to our research, 65% of respondents would like to see a more effective transfer of knowledge from older workers to solve the skills shortage. Meanwhile, 73% say employers must invest more in internal training and the development of current staff (81% among the under 25s), and 47% want more support to improve their own professional development.

More EI members than non-members felt strongly that employers could do more to help tackle skill shortages and should make better use of older workers.

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