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  1. Spotlight on Policy
2 March 2018updated 09 Sep 2021 4:53pm

Capturing an entire generation’s imagination

E.ON’s UK HR director and chair of the National Skills Academy for Power says apprenticeships are a crucial component of future national infrastructure projects.

By Dave Newborough

E.ON’s aim is to be at the forefront of the global shift towards new technology and create a better tomorrow for everyone; working with customers, companies and across communities to make energy simpler, smarter and more sustainable. Our three core businesses mirror the major changes that are happening in energy today: increasing demand for innovative customer solutions, the global growth of renewables as part of the effort to tackle climate change, and the transformation to a smarter energy system. To do this we need to create a workforce that has the skills and talent to develop and deliver new solutions for the future, which is fast becoming one of our biggest challenges.

In the United Kingdom we urgently need more skilled professionals. According to not-for-profit organisation Engineering UK, British companies are short of some 20,000 engineers and technicians every year and the country will need 1.8m more by 2025. In the energy and utility sector alone we will need to recruit 221,000 skilled professionals over the next 10 years to maintain the UK’s infrastructure.

The energy sector is changing and as a business E.ON faces huge challenges over the next few years as we continue our journey to becoming an energy solutions provider of choice. We’ll need to ensure we continue to develop a workforce that can support us through these changes with the necessary skills and behaviours; we see apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships playing a key part in helping us to achieve our vision. Apprenticeships offer a huge amount of value to E.ON bringing new ideas, passion, enthusiasm and loyalty. In return we encourage them to be the best they can be and provide opportunities to achieve degree and post graduate level qualifications through apprenticeships with us.

Over the last three years we have taken on over 250 apprentices, 98 per cent of whom have gone on to secure a full-time job at E.ON, with a quarter undertaking further learning and completing higher apprenticeships as part of their ongoing development.

As part of the wider apprenticeship reforms, the levy has given us an opportunity to revisit our skills strategy and think differently about the way we develop and nurtures skills and talent within the organisation. E.ON is becoming more innovative in its approach to apprenticeships and offers opportunities across a wide range of skills and disciplines, ranging from the more traditional engineering apprenticeships such as Highways Lighting and Wind Farm Technicians, to offering opportunities for apprenticeships within office-based spheres, like cyber security.

We are keen to raise awareness across the UK of the challenges the sector faces and the opportunities apprenticeships can bring. Through working closely with the Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership and the National Skills Academy for Power E.ON, along with the other organisations involved, has been able to bring to life these challenges through the publication of the Workforce Renewal and Skills Strategy. By working with schools and colleges in local communities and supporting The Big Bang UK Young Scientists and Engineers Fair (14-17th March 2018 at the NEC in Birmingham) we have been able to deliver programmes to engage young people and make them excited about STEM subjects. Through this activity we hope to change mindsets and give young people an opportunity to truly understand what career opportunities there are out there in our sector and help remove the undue stigma of apprenticeships.

What our apprentices say

Nathan Davies, originally from Walsall in the West Midlands, is a fourth year apprentice in E.ON’s highways lighting team based in Wednesbury.
“I joined E.ON as an apprentice because I was looking to improve my career prospects when my partner was pregnant. Since joining I’ve gained a huge amount of knowledge and experience and through my hard work I’ve been able to become a street lighting jointer one year earlier than initially planned.
“In March this year I led a team of nine E.ON apprentices as part of the nationwide Brathay challenge, where we presented to young people at schools and careers fairs to raise awareness of apprenticeships and encourage others to consider them as an option for their future.”

Amy Harris is an apprentice windfarm technician working at E.ON’s Humber Gateway Windfarm.
“Before joining E.ON I’d completed a Level 3 diploma in beauty therapy but as I’ve always preferred hands-on work I decided that an apprenticeship would be better suited to me. I’d always found it interesting talking to my family and friends who work in the energy and utilities sector and so I decided to pursue a career in the industry and take up an apprenticeship with E.ON. “I’m currently completing a placement in the control room, as a marine coordinator. I’m responsible for technicians’ safety at sea by maintaining contact and making sure there are no restrictions or safety concerns logged on the turbine they
are working on. Working on a Windfarm is very exciting, no two days are the same and there is a great sense of community. I’m thoroughly enjoying my new career.”

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