Insights and News /

28 June 2016

The networks view of developing Smart Grid expertise

In our first instalment we looked at why individuals are pursuing a career in Smart Grids and what organisations need to do to attract and retain this talent pool. Our second blog looked at the development needs of our own experienced consulting professionals who have chosen to specialise in Smart Grids. In this third instalment we look at how networks businesses are attempting to attract and retain talent to drive their business forward over the next 10 years.

Across the Utility sector, businesses are investing to take raw skills of graduates and apprentices and provide a career path that aligned to their aspirations of work style and frequency of progression. The evidence of this shift in approach can be measured in many ways.In the UK, utilities have looked to market their appeal as an employer of choice through recognition in schemes such as Sunday Times Top Best Big Companies to Work For and through investment and commitment to Leadership Development. In addition, they are also offering a broad spectrum of lifestyle benefits and a commitment to supporting the individual employee both in work and at home.  All these aspects are key concerns for prospective employees when selecting an employer who have the potential to be integral to the transition to a low carbon energy future.

Examples of this shift in approach within network businesses are provided below and while they do represent considerable incremental progress they are still lagging behind employers such as Google, Apple and tech start-up’s that offer innovation-centric careers:

  • With a defined geographic footprint, Network Operators have made significant and continued investment in their impact and contribution to local communities, either through day-to-day activities or responding to their employees desire to make a positive contribution to their community
  • Regular recognition of new joiners alongside those with considerable time with the company through awards and bonus payments, and
  • Commitment to a balance of work and home life through innovations in people policy and access to support services.
And as a consequence of these changes, networks businesses have received awards that demonstrate a commitment to making their business attractive in a competitive market place, including National Grid being recognised as a leading Ethical Company, UK Power Networks receiving awards for its Graduate Development Plan and Scottish Power being recognised for its Apprenticeship scheme.

We asked Paul Geddes, Head of Information Technology & Telecoms at Electricity North West, for his views on the subject:

“The challenge of maintaining the necessary supply of existing engineering skills is a well-known industry challenge as our existing skilled talent pool reaches retirement. 

Success will require us to really innovate in our approach to attracting, developing and retaining talent.  In the future we’ll require our teams to work across the value streams of our business like never before.  We recognise that the next generation of power engineers, asset managers and customer service professionals want different things from their employer. In response to this we’re making changes now, as well as continually refining our people strategy to ensure that Electricity North West continues to play a leading role in enabling the low carbon economy.”

The response to date by Ofgem and network businesses has begun to address the risks of significant skills gap in the coming decade. But it is important to recognise that these businesses cannot just market themselves differently to recruit new talent for traditional roles.  

The transition to a low carbon energy future will be led as much by the talent focussed on developing the network as the technological innovation that is too often the focus of Smart Grid discussion. Embracing this shift in skills requirements, and utilising the opportunity to re-define the culture of the industry is a significant part of the answer. A business that can best understand the skills profile of the future and develop a culture than enables future generations to thrive, will be best placed to identify and recruit the best talent from a highly competitive market place.

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