National Grid sounds labour shortage warning

Hundreds of thousands of workers will be needed to meet the UK’s goal of net zero by 2050, according to new research from National Grid.

There will be 400,000 job opportunities provided by the transition, 100,000 of which will be in the north of England. Opportunities for skilled tradespeople, engineers and other specialists “across every region of the country” will be needed, the company has said.

However, there are a number of challenges that could hamper recruitment in the sector. The report identifies four key potential problems; a looming retirement crunch, competition from other sectors, too few young people gaining STEM qualifications and an ongoing lack of women in the sector. 

National Grid hopes that climate change may act as a motivator for unlocking new talent, based on a recent YouGov poll. It found that increasingly people are looking for professions where they can make a positive environmental impact, with 83 per cent of women keen to play a role in tackling climate change and 73 per cent of men. 

The poll also found that more than half of adults are specifically looking to work for companies working to deliver net zero. 

National Grid's report, ‘Building the Net Zero Energy Workforce’, was written together with Development Economics and uses the Committee on Climate Change's advice on the UK’s transition to carbon neutrality as a basis. 

Nicola Shaw, the executive director of National Grid, said that whilst a major milestone was reached in 2019 as zero carbon electricity outstripped fossil fuels, “there’s still a long way to go.”

“As the pathway to net zero becomes clearer, so must our understanding of the jobs and skills we need to succeed.

“Our research shows that to deliver net zero, the energy industry needs to recruit hundreds of thousands of people over the next thirty years – and that really is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the wider impact of net zero across other industries.

“The time is now for the sector to rise to the challenge and overcome the long-standing issues we face in recruiting a diverse workforce with the right skills to deliver on the UK’s ambitions,” Shaw continued.

According to the report, over the next decade 117,000 roles will need to be filled, 152,000 between 2031 and 2040 and 131,000 in the final decade to 2050. 

Of these, 260,000 will be new roles, created by the need to build and upgrade low carbon infrastructure. The remaining 140,000 will be replacements for those leaving the workforce.

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