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Building the Net Zero UK Workforce

23 Jun 2021

The UK has a legally binding long-term goal to reduce the UK’s net emissions of greenhouse gases to zero in 2050.  New technologies and green innovations will be required to reduce emissions from homes, transport, agriculture and industry.  The Government has committed £bn of investment, and expects more to flow from the public sector, to deliver this.

Alongside the obvious benefits to delivering on our net zero ambitions, the Government sees the green recovery as a way to stimulate jobs.  But does the talent exist?  Do we have the right skills in the right volumes to fill the jobs that we need – and quickly?

Skill shortages and the challenge of job creation

National Grid research, ‘Net Zero Energy Workforce Report’, shows that the UK energy industry needs to create 400,000 new jobs by 2050 to meet net zero.

The UK economy has long faced significant challenges in terms of skill shortages and regional inequalities.  Some 91% of businesses recently said they face a skills deficit and the economies of Yorkshire and the Humber, the North East, and the West Midlands grew at less than half the rate of London’s economy between 1998 and 2016.  The Covid-19 crisis has amplified these challenges and brought with it an increase in unemployment and in particular, youth unemployment.  The energy sector isn’t immune to this but also faces the additional challenge of an ageing workforce, with one-fifth of people currently working in the sector due to retire by 2030.

So with 117,000 of the 400,000 new jobs in the energy industry required by 2030, we need to act now and deploy a range of different strategies if we are to deliver the jobs required to drive the UK’s green recovery and net zero targets.

Implementing a Workforce Strategy to meet the talent demand

In discussion with HR and business leaders, Capgemini will be publishing a series of articles discussing the workforce strategy required by the Energy & Utilities sector to deliver against this net zero challenge.

The framework we’ll use for this is the 7 B’s – separately they are channels for acquiring, developing or augmenting talent but together they form the workforce strategy required to meet the UK’s sector and business demand.

So, let’s look at the 7 B’s:

Buy – creation of a best-in-class talent acquisition strategy, enabling us to attract talent across five generations in competition with all sectors.  Possibly the most challenging of the channels, but with an authentic employer brand, effective marketing, engaging recruitment process and innovative early careers programmes, there is huge opportunity here.

Build – often the least invested in channel but potentially the most impactful; building a Learning & Development Centre of Expertise that enables a range of reskilling & upskilling programmes through digital, personalised and experiential training can not only develop a big proportion of the required talent but have a major impact on attraction and retention too.

Borrow – utilising contingent workforce is often the most expensive channel; however, through evolving a data driven, total talent management approach, temporary, contract and SOW spend can become targeted and deliver business value.

Bot – business process automation offers great potential to reduce the talent gap but is a contentious topic.  When integrated into this framework, that maps how automation augments roles, and aligns upskilling programmes, we can increase profit whilst delivering an improved employee experience.

Bind – continually identifying the critical skills we need over a three-five year horizon and having retention strategies is vital in ensuring all the above efforts are not in vain!

Bounce – through identifying the skills that are not aligned to short-medium term demand and creating outplacement and alumni programmes that are focused on sharing and re-engaging talent between companies that may consider themselves competitors can have a hugely positive impact across the sector.

Balance – making the 6 B’s above converge harmoniously is challenging!  So, having the right systems to dynamically deploy skills and talent is the final piece of this framework.  Finally, being both innovative and collaborative in creating a partnership ecosystem and talent marketplace across the sector will help to solve the risk of losing talent to other sectors.

A focus on ‘Buy’ in conversation with National Grid and Ambitious about Autism

In their recent article, Sally-Anne Dudley, UK Head of Learning, and Dan Tingle, new Talent and STEM Manager at National Grid spoke of their Social Mobility and Apprenticeship programmes being a key channel as part of the ‘Buy’ strategy.  National Grid is working with MyKindaFuture to reach 100,000 diverse, young people across London; and their Youth Verified programme is creating opportunity for Talent from disadvantaged backgrounds:

Another opportunity is attracting talent from other industries through marketing the critical role the Energy & Utilities sector is playing in climate change and sustainability.  This isn’t a new trend, the Harvard Business Review were discussing this nearly a decade ago.

With research now showing sustainability is one of the primary considerations for Gen Z & Millennial candidates in choosing their employers, how are companies approaching this? To tap into that desire, National Grid launched a recruitment campaign called ‘The Job That Can’t Wait’ which positioned a job with the company as helping to tackle climate change. This led to a 760% increase in expressions of interest for National Grid’s 2020 new talent scheme!

Targeting untapped talent pools such as those with a learning disability is another great opportunity. National Grid’s EmployAbility internship scheme is an award-winning initiative based on partnerships between local schools and National Grid.  Only around 6% of people with a learning disability are in paid employment and it couldn’t be further from the truth that they don’t want to work.  According to the charity Mencap, 65% would love to do what many of us take for granted – simply getting up in the morning and going off to do a job.  The EmployAbility scheme at National Grid is a year-long personalised programme, designed to equip interns with the skills they need for employment through learning in the workplace, via one or more placements.

A growing trend over recent years, has seen companies like SAP, JP Morgan, Microsoft and more recently BP create Autism at Work programmes.  With ~80% of Autistic young people not in full time employment and evidence showing recruiting more Neurodiverse talent delivers a range of business benefits, this is surely an opportunity all companies should be grasping.  Jade Fuller, Employ Autism Programme Manager at the UK charity Ambitious about Autism reports, “Employ Autism trains and supports employers to offer meaningful, paid internships to autistic people. We are building on the successes we’ve had over the last five years in our London programme, as we establish regional networks across the country”. The benefits of offering a placement include:

  • Access to a pool of untapped, diverse talent
  • Increase the morale and retention of your staff
  • Raise productivity levels and improve bottom line
  • Promote diversity of thought and problem solving
  • Support your existing workforce to thrive
  • Reflect the diversity of your clients and communities

Finally, the hybrid working revolution means that businesses are increasingly able to recruit across a broader radius, vastly opening up new talent pools – and in doing so, allowing greater access to under-represented groups (for example, parents or those with caring responsibilities), as well as those who want access to greater opportunity but who may have felt ‘locked’ out due to gender, disability, neurodiversity or social background – but these are the people who can bring very different, more creative, status quo-challenging ideas.

In our next article, we will look at possibly the biggest opportunity to bridge the talent gap, the Build strategy.