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Equal Opportunities


Women make up a smaller percentage (24%) of the workforce in every one of the energy and utilities sector than the UK average (43%). The density of female workers is particularly low in the power and waste management industries, where women account for less than a fifth of all employees. The gas upstream sub-sector and water industry employ slightly more women although both still employ far fewer women than the average across all sectors.

Source: Energy & Utility Skills Sector Skills Agreement 2006

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Gender by industry

Gas (upstream), power and water

These industries are remarkably similar. Females make up 67-68% of the workforce within the administrative and secretarial occupations and 54-63% of those employed in sales and customer services. In the gas industry, females are slightly better represented in managerial (24%) occupations, but are still at a lower level than the all sector average. However, within power generation companies, it is estimated that just 10% of the workforce are female.

Waste management

As in other industries there are high concentrations of females in administrative and secretarial (73%) and sales and customer service (53%) roles. Also, one-in-three associate professionals are female, which is higher than in any other energy and utilities utilities.

However, in those occupations that represent the majority of the waste management workforce, plant and machine operatives and elementary occupations, females makeup just 4% and 16% respectively.

Source: Energy & Utility Skills Sector Skills Agreement 2006

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Gender by occupation

There is a strong gender bias across the energy and utilities sector, with high concentrations of female workers in administrative and secretarial, sales and customer service roles. Across the sector as a whole, only one in five managerial employees are female, compared with one in three across the UK economy.

Level 3 occupations, which are technical in nature, seem to employ very few females, as do low-skilled, craft and elementary occupations.

Source: Energy & Utility Skills Sector Skills Agreement Stage 1 2006

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Data relating to the ethnicity of the workforce is difficult to obtain, and therefore data has been taken from Census of Population 2001. Data from this source shows that 8% of the UK’s total workforce is from a black or minority ethnic (BME) background. Across the four energy and utilities sector, only the gas (upstream) sub-sector approaches this national average.

The vast majority of each industry’s workforce is White (93-96%), with Asian/Asian British and Black/Black British the only other ethnic groups to account for 1% or more of the workforce. The water and waste management industries have the lowest BME workforces, with only half the average BME employment rate.

Across England, Scotland and Wales there is little variance from the UK average in terms of workforce ethnicity. However, in Northern Ireland, the power industry is almost entirely White (99%). This does, however, reflect the ethnic make-up of the Northern Ireland population and workforce as a whole, and is not unique to the industry.

6% of those starting an apprenticeship in plumbing or engineering are from ethnic minority communities.

Source: Energy & Utility Skills Sector Skills Agreement 2006

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In the energy and utilities sector a common theme is the above average concentrations of employees within the 35-44 and 45-54 year old age bands. There are also higher proportions of the gas (downstream) and waste management workforces from the 55-64 year old age group than the UK average.

There is a strong correlation between the age profile of a sector and its tendency to employ certain occupations. In short, the more senior positions are filled by older employees, while sales and customer service attract younger employees. This appears to be a straightforward reflection of the nature of the roles.

Source: Energy & Utility Skills Sector Skills Agreement 2006

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Age profile of energy and utilities industries


In general terms, the age profile of the power industry is similar to that of the whole UK workforce, although it does employ slightly fewer 16-24 year olds and more 35-54 year olds. This is likely to be a reflection of the industry’s restriction in terms of under 18 year olds working on generation, transmission and distribution systems and its desire to recruit more experienced and mature individuals into, what can be, dangerous roles and situations.


Similar to the power industry, the water industry also employs relatively few 16-24 year olds and a higher proportion of 35-54 year olds. The reason for this is likely to be the industry’s relatively high need for managers, professionals and associate professionals.

Gas (upstream)

In contrast the gas (upstream) sub-sector has a younger age profile than both the UK and energy and utilities sector averages. One reason for this may be the high proportion of administration, secretarial and sales and customer service occupations that are employed by this industry. 33% of the gas (upstream) workforce is employed in these two roles, while the energy and utilities sector average is 22%.

Gas (downstream)

The gas (downstream) sub-sector has the oldest age profile of all the industries. Almost half of the workforce is over 45 years old, with just one-quarter aged under 34 years old. There is, however, a peak of operatives between approximately 23 and 27 years old, followed by a slight decline.

Waste management

The waste management industry has a considerably older workforce than both the UK and energy and utilities sector average.

There seems to be two main contributory factors behind the under-representation of young people in the industry: firstly, the poor image that the industry has among this age group leads many of them to reject it as an attractive long-term career option, and secondly, from an employer’s perspective it can be a difficult and costly exercise in gaining adequate insurance to cover young people working in what can be a dangerous environment, leading them to seek a more experienced and mature employee.

It should be noted, however, that treating waste management as one homogeneous industry in terms of age profile can be misleading. For example, in some specialist recycling and treatment operations, where the workforce is generally skewed towards associate professional occupations than elementary ones, the average age of the workforce is somewhat lower.

Source: Energy and Utility Skills LMI report March 2010, Energy & Utility Skills Sector Skills Agreement 2006 and Waste Management Industry Sector Skills Agreement 2006

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It is estimated that 0.7% of the energy and utilities sector workforce regards themselves as disabled. If true, it would suggest that approximately 3,700 energy and utilities employees have a disability. However, as the disability estimate is based upon a fairly small sample size, an accurate figure is not available.

Due to the physical and dexterous nature of many of the activities undertaken across the four industries, it is unlikely that a relatively significant proportion of the workforce will be classified as disabled. However, there is anecdotal evidence that suggests that the waste management industry does employ a number of people with learning disabilities to undertake activities that require no or low-level skills. However due to the nature of the workforce and the problems in identifying people with learning difficulties, quantifying this issue is problematic.

Source: Energy & Utility Skills Sector Skills Assessment 2009 and Energy & Utility Skills Sector Skills Agreement 2006

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