Could contractors keep the lights on in the UK energy sector?

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Employers within the UK energy and utilities sector are finding it increasingly tough to find workers with the right skills, potentially paving the way for contractors to step in and save the day.

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) has found that 31% of energy firms are having trouble recruiting staff with the expertise they need. This is exacerbated by the fact that more than a third of the existing workforce is set to retire within the next ten years.

UKCES claimed that employers would have to up their game when attracting potential employees, especially as many young people feel that the sector does not represent an attractive career option. This is despite the fact that the industry is expected to create thousands of jobs over the next seven years.

The study urged energy companies to work together in order to address the skills crisis, and find “new and innovative” ways to tackle the problem. This would allow businesses to “spread the burden across the entire sector.”

Lesley Giles, research director at UKCES, said: “We are all dependent on the energy sector to fuel our everyday lives. It is a growth sector which adds £25 billion to the economy each year, but needs to take steps to mitigate the risk presented by skills shortages and a competitive global marketplace.”

She also urged employers to focus more on training and upskilling existing workers as a way to temporarily alleviate the pressure.

Another way that businesses could solve the problem would be to take on contractors – who can always be relied upon to provide short-term access to key skills. Freelancers are able to hit the ground running, stepping in and ensuring projects are delivered on time and on budget.

If employers do decide to increase their contingent workforce, contractors would not only benefit from an abundance of extra opportunities, but could also witness a surge in assignment rates. This is because businesses are likely to fight among themselves to secure the talent they need – even if that means splashing the cash.

Have your say

Are you a contractor working within the energy sector? Have you noticed an increase in demand for your services? How do you think the skills shortage problem can be resolved? Join in the discussion on Twitter, or leave a comment below.