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Education and Training

The energy and utilities workforce qualification profile is very similar to that of the all sector average. The sector does, however, have fewer employees qualified at Levels 4 and 5 and slightly more operating at Level 1 and without any formal qualifications.

Qualifications levels by occupation:

  • Level 4 is the dominant qualification held by managers and senior officials, professional occupations, and associate professional and technical groups whereas S/NVQ Level 3 is more prevalent for skilled trade occupations.
  • Process, plant and machine operatives are more likely to possess “Other” qualifications while elementary occupations are characterised by a high incidence of employees possessing no qualifications.
  • Similarly the recycling and refuse and sanitation industries are generally more prone to having a workforce with no (or few) qualifications.

Source: Energy & Utility Skills Sector Skills Agreement 2006

Scottish/National Vocational Qualifications

Approximately half (51.5%) of employers in the energy and utilities sector have not trained any staff towards an S/NVQ in the previous 12 months. This compares to an England average of 43%. The 2005 Employer Skills Survey suggests that this is because of a preference for in-house training on sector specific skills, possibly driven by the specialist nature of the training and the lack of external provision.

In addition, many occupations have reasonably high entry requirements, ranging from S/NVQs to Degrees. There is an inclination for these qualifications to be generic with only partial relevance to distinct occupational groups. In the 2006 Employer Survey, employers noted the acceptability of non-industry specific Degrees.

Source: Energy & Utility Skills Sector Skills Agreement 2006

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Apprenticeships have historically been a significant entry route into the energy and utilities sector. Even with the downsizing that occurred post privatisation, the level of Apprentice recruitment remained relatively high. In the Energy & Utility Skills Employer survey 2006, 61% of respondents employed Apprentices at Level 2 or 3. However, contractors noted that they do not take on Apprentices due, in part, to insurance and driving issues, as well as the specific health and safety concerns associated with employing a young person.

Employers believe that greater promotion of the energy and utilities industries is needed to attract Apprentices, as this may not always be their sector of first choice. Most employers are aware of the Apprenticeship Framework and those who choose not to employ Apprentices cite internal business concerns and not the Apprenticeship Framework as the reason.

Generally, employers find the recruitment of Apprentices not to be a problem. This suggests that the current Apprenticeship system is largely appropriate for employers needs. However, employers want to see improvements made to the Apprenticeship Framework in terms of the context, delivery style and funding resources for the programme. Employers particularly ask for further development of the Framework in order to make the Apprenticeships more business and sector focused.

Apprenticeships are currently largely focused on 16-17 year olds; in many areas the industry requires older Apprentices. There is also an employer requirement for specific Apprenticeships for the different industries. This correlates well with the sector need for technical and craft skills. However, some employers recruit and plan to recruit Apprentices at Level 3 with the aim of developing the recruits to fill future gaps in a variety of roles in the company. To underpin this, there is a need for Apprenticeships to address business as well as technical topics.

Source: Energy & Utility Skills Sector Skills Agreement 2006 and Energy & Utility Skills LMI report March 2010.

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Foundation degrees

Employers who have embraced the Foundation Degree concept see it as a vehicle for attracting further candidates into the sector, as well as offering opportunities for existing employees to up-skill or retrain. Nevertheless, there are also widespread misconceptions amongst employers about the exact nature and format of Foundation Degrees.

There are only a few Foundation Degrees currently being offered by universities or Further Education colleges which relate to the energy and utilities sector.

Source: Energy & Utility Skills Sector Skills Agreement 2006

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On and off-the-job training

Around three quarters of organisations in the energy and utilities sector (75.7%) have funded or arranged either off-the-job or on-the-job training over the previous 12 months. Of this figure, establishments were more likely to have arranged off-the-job training than on-the-job. The NESS survey also found that over half of companies (52.4%) arranged both on and off-the-job training.

The North West is the region most likely to have establishments that have funded or arranged either off-the-job or on-the-job training (82%) while Yorkshire and Humber is the most likely to have arranged both types of training (63.9%).

By contrast, London had the lowest incidence of either on-the-job, off-the-job or both on and off-the-job training of any region. This is likely to reflect the fact that London has the highest proportion of the workforce with no qualifications.

Source: Energy & Utility Skills Sector Skills Agreement 2006

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Who gets trained?

The energy and utilities sector is more likely to provide training for process plant and machine operatives (85.9%) than the England average (71%). This highlights and reinforces the technical nature of many of the occupations contained within the sector.

Training for process, plant and machine operatives is high because there is a drive for competent operators that is partly driven by the quality regulators through due diligence.

It is noted that professional occupations are less likely than the average to receive training. This may be an indication that recruitment is based on individuals possessing the qualifications prior to undertaking their contract of employment.

Source: Energy & Utility Skills Sector Skills Agreement 2006

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