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Call for change in energy sector

PUBLISHED: 14:52 11 June 2009 | UPDATED: 14:08 03 July 2010

TALENTED young people are not being attracted to careers in the energy industry because the sector has for years failed to promote the opportunities that exist, says Blair Ainslie, the new chairman of Skills for Energy.

TALENTED young people are not being attracted to careers in the energy industry because the sector has for years failed to promote the opportunities that exist, says Blair Ainslie, the new chairman of Skills for Energy.

Unless that changes, the East of England's brightest young people will continue to be attracted to other industries and to jobs outside the area.

“It's absolutely vital to our region and to the British economy that we reverse this trend,” said Mr Ainslie, managing director of Great Yarmouth-based marine specialists Seajacks UK.

“There's still 40 years of life left in the oil and gas business, plus decommissioning after that. Then there's construction and decommissioning in nuclear power and the amazing opportunities that exist with the development of massive offshore wind farms on our own doorstep.

“We're talking about many thousands of jobs, and no region is better placed to take advantage of this than ours,” said Mr Ainslie, who succeeds David Edwards, chief executive officer of SLP, as chairman.

Speaking at a Skills for Energy breakfast event at the Cliff Hotel, Gorleston, attended by representatives of energy businesses, education and funding organisations, he said companies in the energy industry were now working harder than ever to promote the enormous range of career opportunities that exist for young people with the right skills and qualifications.

Celia Mackie, Skills for Energy executive director, said her organisation was working with a range of groups to plug a skills gap that would only get wider in future if the sector, schools, colleges, universities and training providers didn't act with urgency to solve the problem.

“This is a matter of national importance and as the country's leading energy region we have to take a lead,” she said. “The industry faces serious problems if it can't recruit skilled people - from well-qualified technicians to high-flying graduates.”

Delegates at the event heard of a raft of initiatives designed to plug the skills gap. These included a skills programme for craft and technician trainees, plans for an energy foundation degree, details of a programme to make it easier for companies to recruit former military personnel, a school maritime and energy engagement programme run by the Mason Trust, the High Energy Schools' Challenge web-televised quiz and national events for students under the Energise Your Future banner.

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