Early this week Philip Hammond presented his 2017 winter budget and what stands out is the focus on technology. The UK government clearly believes that technology improvements and advances will be the answer to the UK’s productivity issue.
So what does this mean for utilities? What is clear is that over the past few years the utilities sector have seen massive advances in technology, ranging from new operations and billing systems to the way we generate, distribute and monitor energy and water. And with these technology changes brings an almost unprecedented need to learn new skills. Utility People’s 2016 skills survey identified a real concern across the sector about the availability of skills needed to manage the new energy revolution – and that’s not even taken into account nascent technologies which might become more mainstream over the next few years – we’re seeing Demand Side Response moving away from being a commercial business only offering, and into the domestic space, and battery storage is becoming and increasingly popular demand management tool.
What can we do to make sure that the utilities sector is able to keep up with the digital and technology skills that are needed to transform the sector?
Firstly, I’d advise companies to widen their net a little. At Utility People, we’re actively looking for candidates in other sectors, such as IT or similar, that might have the transferable skills companies are looking for. Utilities companies shouldn’t just look within their own sector for top people – telecoms and retail are other industries that might provide the right skills et.
Secondly, companies need to invest in training. More than ever, staff need to be provided with both structured and informal training programmes that can help them keep up to date with the latest technologies, and the skills they need to make the most of them. Our 2016 survey showed that 28% of respondents felt that there was NO training programmes in place in their organisation, whilst 50% said that the internal training in place wasn’t effective. Employers need to look at the skills they need and engage with the right training organisations to make sure that their people are able to keep up with the pace of change.