With the rise of renewable energy and the UK's targets for green energy production, demand has never been higher for skilled electrical installers. We have known for some time there is a skills shortage which is due to get worse due to a ticking time bomb of older electricians retiring. However this has been further compounded by the growing renewables sector creating even more demand for electricians and installers.
The retirement time bomb
Last year the JIB published figures that showed the average age of electricians was around 41 years old. However the more worrying statistic was that the number of electricians over the age of 61 had doubled in 10 years. This all points to one thing – an aging workforce which is not going to be replenished at the same rate electricians retire.
And it's not just electricians that are facing this issue. The construction industry as a whole is facing the same dilemma. Recent statistics from CITB showed that:
17% of the construction workforce are due to retire within 10 years
In the last 2 decades the number of workers over 55 has increased by 65%
The number of workers under the age of 24 has fallen by 40%
The number of 16-19 year in construction have halved since 2008.
This is all compounded by the fact that these physical jobs are not really suitable for those looking to extend their careers past the age of 65. So it all points to a ticking time bomb which needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
The immediate shortage
There is however a more immediate concern due to the increase in demand from the renewable energy sector. A recent report by the REA published on the 24th April 2012 has made it clear that the UK's targets for renewable energy are going to require a solid workforce of skilled engineers to meet our obligations. The report also goes on to outline that immediate action is needed if we are going to meet these targets.
Key points raised in the report in relation to the skills shortage were:
Then renewables sector will require 400,00 strong workforce by 2020
This means a 4 fold increase in just 8 years
In particular the REA has warned he number of electrical engineering graduates is already in short supply
So what does this mean for you?
Well it all depends on where you stand. If you are already in the sector then your job is pretty safe and you may be happily enjoying good job security whatever your age. If you are looking at training and getting into the growing renewable energy or electrical sectors then this remains a very wise move. With demand for electricity supply in the UK set to double by 2050 one thing is clear that if you want a job for life, working in electrical and renewables sectors is a pretty safe bet. In particular we will see an increased demand for fully qualified electricians who are capable of working on both domestic and commercial projects.
However in order to produce fully qualified electricians we need more apprenticeship spaces available and at present there is a massive short fall of these. Changes are a foot and we will see more spaces and more applicants next year when student loans will be made available for mature students looking to undertake a level 3 apprenticeship. This will mean for many employers they will be able to recruit apprentices with work and life experience who could be more useful than younger apprentices fresh out of school.
However what is clear is that the government needs to act now to promote a ground up approach and address this shortfall before it is too late.
Unfortunately the main issue seems to be that British industry will suffer as we struggle to meet the demands of our changing economy. Those working in the industry in the future will need to work hard to keep on top of the increasing demand for their services and this will undoubtedly lead to an increase in average wages and pay for skilled electrical engineers and installers.