Talent needed to take advantage of Lancashire’s energy future

Centrica gas rig off Morecambe
Centrica gas rig off Morecambe
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The future looks bright for Lancashire’s energy sector – but only if enough talent is found to keep up with demand.

Leaders at the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership estimate the county’s £564m energy sector employs around 40,000 people, with that number growing all the time.

Dr Michele Lawty-Jones, of the Lancashire Skills Hub, warned: “Without a constant pipeline of bright youngster, we might not have enough talent to take advantage. of a thriving, diverse and dynamic energy sector in Lancashire.”

Energy UK estimated in 2015 that gas produced 30 per cent of the UK’s energy need, coal 22 per cent and oil one per cent. Nuclear generated 21 per cent and renewables made up 25 per cent which is set to rise to 30 per cent by 2020 to meet climate change obligations.

Energy saving and increasing efficiency is set to deliver the biggest effect on our energy usage.

Ed Davey, when he was climate secretary in the coalition government, pointed out in November 2012, that a 10 per cent reduction in usage by 2030 meant five fewer power stations and £4bn cut from bills.

The energy and environment technologies sector has been identified as one of the most important by the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership. It says the sector employs around 40,000 people in more than 5,200 businesses.

It says nuclear, offshore gas, oil and wind, onshore wind, waste recovery and environmental technology are the most important for the county and the sector generates between £564m and £2bn Gross Value Added a year. Last week the Office for National Statistics said the renewable energy sector generated £14.9bn worth of business.

The change in the sector throws up huge challenges - but also opportunities - and Lancashire is moving to position itself as a hub of energy expertise and skills.

Dr Lawty-Jones said: “Energy, environmental industries and the wider supply chain are hugely important to the Lancashire economy and are set to create several thousand new jobs within the next 20 years.

“This is being driven by the fact that the generation, capture, storage, management and distribution of energy is increasingly complex, and we as a society now need a much wider mix of energy sources, including low-carbon and renewables. This means we also need workers with new and different skills if we are to maximise the economic potential of the energy market.

“Further, within Lancashire’s more established energy industries such as nuclear and offshore gas, we have an ageing workforce which will soon need to be replaced by a younger cohort of engineers, technicians, researchers and scientists. In the last few years we have also made substantial investments in many of Lancashire’s further education colleges to inspire the next generation of energy workers, including a £6.2m contribution to the £9.8m Lancashire Energy HQ in Blackpool. Lancaster University and UCLan also have internationally recognised centres of excellence in energy and environmental studies which provide progression opportunities for students, and support local businesses to innovate.

“But even with our education partners geared up to train industry-ready energy professionals, without a constant pipeline of bright and capable young people with a good grounding in core STEM subjects flowing into our universities and colleges, we still might not have enough home-grown talent to take full advantage of a thriving, diverse and dynamic energy sector.

“This is why the Skills Hub and LEP are working alongside employers, teachers and careers advisers to promote careers like engineering and advanced manufacturing to our brightest and best young people.”