Utility Week

UTILITY Week 10th April 2015

Utility Week - authoritative, impartial and essential reading for senior people within utilities, regulators and government

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Page 6 of 31

People & Opinion UTILITY WEEK | 10TH - 16TH APRIL 2015 | 7 Filling the skills gap as an employer of choice UKPN's resourcing and upskilling strategies will ensure it has the skills it needs in the future. Chief executive's view Basil Scarsella, UK Power Networks U K Power Networks (UKPN) has a vision to be an "employer of choice" and the recruitment and retention of the right people, together with their ongoing development and training, is key to the achieve- ment of this vision. The link between a genuinely engaged workforce and excellent busi- ness performance is well proven and it is this link which under- pins UKPN's business and human resources strategy, and our approach to addressing the "skills gap". It is widely acknowledged that distribution network opera- tors (DNOs) in the UK are facing a number of important long-term challenges, including the need to develop technical skills and recruit new talented resources into the industry. This is exacer- bated as it is taking place within the context of an ageing work- force, a sector which is not seen as offering an "attractive" career by those about to enter the jobs' market and an industry where the supply of appropriately skilled resources is extremely limited. This challenge is height- ened given the implications of increased workload across the power sector and the smart metering programme, which will further intensify this need for skilled resources. Against this background, UKPN has devel- oped complex yet pragmatic workforce planning modelling techniques to quantify resource needs for the future. Based on forecasted work volumes and modelling assumptions, it is esti- mated that the number of tech- nically skilled staff that UKPN will need to recruit and develop in the RIIO-ED1 period is in the region of 1,000. The company has a positive track record of recruiting, devel- oping, training and retaining our staff. Following the devel- opment of plans for DPCR5, UKPN has been implementing resourcing and upskilling strat- egies to ensure that it has the skills available for the future. The Workforce Renewal Allow- ance awarded to DNOs during the DPCR5 period has enabled us to focus on skills investment and we have invested around £70 million in workforce renewal activities over the five years. In addition, and importantly, we have been concentrating on employee engagement as a key enabler of the effective applica- tion of skills and improved busi- ness performance. The award of Investors in People Gold accredi- tation in 2014 provides external validation that our development, upskilling and engagement plans and activities are of the highest quality. Our resourcing strategy com- prises a variety of interdepend- ent initiatives to deliver business requirements. The range and breadth of our responses is critical as it allows us to adapt our strategy to changes in market conditions and work volumes, while remaining cost- efficient. Core activities include the recruitment of trainees – as well as graduate and engineer- ing development programmes, we operate two apprentice schemes and have introduced a smart metering traineeship. In 2014, we recruited 112 engineering trainees. We also recruited more than 300 techni- cally skilled staff from a competi- tive marketplace. The upskilling of our existing employees is also an integral part of our approach as it not only facilitates the devel- opment of key technical skills but also contributes to career development and increased lev- els of staff engagement. UKPN sees tremendous value in working collaboratively within the sector. We are a member of the National Skills Academy for Power and the Energy Efficiency Industrial Partnership, which has supported many cross-industry initiatives, including the recent launch of the Level 3 Power Cras person Apprenticeships. The scale of the challenges facing the sector means that a long-term, holistic and inte- grated approach will be more successful than short-term, piecemeal and opportunistic initiatives. Our strategy ranges from establishing meaningful links with schools and colleges to "connect" with young people, to broad-ranging and innova- tive recruitment strategies, and from putting in place innovative development and upskilling pro- grammes for existing employees to providing an "employee offer- ing" that attracts and retains the right talent. All of this provides the foun- dation on which to address the skills gap. UKPN's recent entry into the Sunday Times list of the "Top 25 Companies To Work For" – the first DNO to feature – com- bined with significant improved business performance in areas such as safety, customer ser- vice, supply, network reliability and efficiency, indicates that our approach is paying dividends and that we are moving in the right direction. Basil Scarsella will chair an industry debate exploring the challenges ahead for UK power networks adjusting to the RIIO regime at Utility Week Live on 21 April in Birmingham. Joining him in discussion will be Anna Rossington, head of RIIO‑ED1 at Ofgem, and Chris Bennett, head of RIIO delivery at National Grid. Find out more at www.utilityweeklive.co.uk TM

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