Supplementary evidence from the department
for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform following oral
evidence session with Malcolm Wicks MP, Minister of State for
Energy on 26 March 2008
At the evidence session on 26 March the Committee
indicated that they would like to have asked some questions on
skills. The questions were subsequently passed to my officials.
We have now considered these questions and the Government's response
is set out below.
Q1There is widespread concern at the skills
shortages in the renewables sector. What steps is the Government
taking to address this problem?
Employers are increasingly able to influence
the design and supply of skills through initiatives such as National
Skills Academies, Apprenticeships, Train to Gain and Diplomas.
The energy sector is developing effective skills strategies, with
Academies in operation or under development for nuclear; oil and
gas; process; and power. Although the development of a skills
strategy for renewables is not so well advanced (due to the fragmented
footprint of the industry) the other energy initiatives will produce
transferable skills that can be used to support renewables deployment.
There are emerging plans for a Skills Academy
covering the environmental industries. Initially this is likely
to cover waste management and facilities management and so will
include waste to energy and energy systems in buildings.
The Government is committed to increasing the
numbers of young people choosing to study science, technology,
engineering and mathematic (STEM) post 16 to ensure that the UK
has a skilled workforce to compete in the global economy and is
continuing to work on delivery of its commitment to improve participation
and attainment in STEM subjects. DIUS in particular supports initiatives
to encourage children to find science interesting and to encourage
the supply of science graduates into the UK workforce, for example
DIUS funds the Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics
Network (STEMNET) promoting STEM awareness and engagement among
young people in schools and colleges and the highly successful
Science and Engineering Ambassadors programme, which now has over
18,000 ambassadors who are supporting school activities, offering
mentoring, career guidance and are positive role models
DCSF has just announced £140 million of
spending over the next three years to support the STEM agenda
in schools which includes a communications campaign to promote
STEM careers and measures to improve the teaching of STEM subjects
by boosting investments in training of specialist science teachers.
The Government is also committed to increasing
the number of women in Science, Engineering and Technology (SET)
education and the workforce, a sector where they are considerably
under-represented and which contributes directly to the skills
shortage. Currently the UK economy is estimated to be losing many
£millions because women with SET degrees do not enter or
return to the SET sector, but this is hard to quantify. The low
representation of women across all aspects, and at all levels,
of SET employment suggests that there are barriers to recruitment,
retention and progression, in both industry and academia. DIUS
funds the UK Resource Centre for Women, which has a key role to
play to help close the skills gap by working with SET businesses
to help recruit and retain women with SET expertise.
The Government is working with the Sector Skills
Councils and other stakeholders to deliver the report on skills
across the energy sector that was requested in the 2007 Energy
White Paper. This will give the first sector-wide view and will
set out the challenges to be faced as the ageing workforce approaches
retirement and as new process and technologies are introduced.
This will include recommendations for Government and will be published
Q2The Royal Society Edinburgh suggested
that establishing a Knowledge Transfer Partnership programme in
the area of renewable energies might help address the skills gap.
Is this something that the Government would consider?
It is anticipated that as part of the growth
of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs),
as recommended by Lord Sainsbury in the Race
to the Top, and as proposed in the Technology Strategy Board's
soon to be published strategy, effort will be put into generating
additional KTPs which aim to transfer renewable energy knowledge
from the knowledge base into UK business, thereby increasing innovation
and the spread of technical and business skills.
Renewable energy technologies are one of the
Board's key technology areas and during the period 2008-2010 it
aims to encourage the flow of people and ideas to stimulate more
innovative approaches to energy technologies by:
Leveraging on centres of expertise
in energy technologies supported by the Research Councils (eg
SUPERGEN and TSEC consortia) in order to provide businesses with
access to expertise.
Investing in projects undertaken
by academics to solve specific business problems, encouraging
Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) in the Technology Strategy
Board Energy generation and Supply priority areas.
Exploring possibilities of international
and business to business or business to science KTPs, to stimulate
the flow of knowledge and people between UK leading players and
international leaders in the defined priority areas.
Q3In order to increase the number of skilled
engineers in the UK, industry and academia are investing in the
Power Academy. Do you believe that industry is best placed to
drive the skills agenda or should the Government take the lead?
What mechanisms are in place to ensure that the skills-related
concerns of the renewables industry are heard by Government?
Government and industry need to work in partnership
Government is doing all it can to shape the skills system around
the needs of its customersemployers and learners. But we
believe that it is essential for employers to take the lead on
skills development. Only employers are equipped to judge the numbers
and precise levels of skills they require and, critically, to
judge when they will be needed. Government is ill-equipped to
make these judgements and could get it badly wrong. This is why
we have created the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, putting
the employer voice at the heart of the system. Reformed and re-licensed
Sector Skills Councils will focus on raising employer investment,
articulating the future skills needs of their sector, and ensuring
that the supply of skills and qualifications is driven by employers.
Employers involved in renewable energy can input skills concerns
through their Sector Skills Councils.
Through their SSCs, employers will have a leading
role in the reform and development of vocational qualifications
for their sector. And we are making it easier for employers to
have their own training programmes nationally recognised and accredited.
We are improving and expanding Train to Gain
to help employers of all sizes and in all sectors to identify
and address their skills needs; we expect our investment to rise
to over El billion by 2010-11. We have published a detailed plan
for the growth of Train to Gain, describing new flexibilities
that we will introduce to the service to ensure it meets the needs
of employers and employees.
Q4Does the renewable energy industry warrant
a Sector Skills Council? ff not, what processes are in place to
ensure that its needs are met by the existing Councils?
Employers define the sector a Sector Skills
Council (SSC) represents. Sector Skills Councils cover in the
region of 500,000 employees. Renewable energy sources are of increasing
strategic and economic importance to employers in the energy sector.
However, renewable energy has a complex footprint which overlaps
other sectors, including the construction skills base, with its
2 million workers and large number of micro-businesses. Engaging
such workers and employers, many of whom will only install renewable
systems on an occasional basis, is a key challenge. Many companies
specialising in renewables are small and difficult to engage in
the skills and training agenda. Timing the supply of skills to
match demand is also critical. While a case can be made for a
renewables SSC, we believe that it would lack the support and
backing of large, established employers and would struggle to
make an impact.
For this reason, we believe that the renewables
sector is best covered by the existing SSCs, working together.
The SSCs are required to identify and update skills needs and
priorities through their Sector Skills Agreements. For Energy
and Utility Skills and other relevant SSCs this would include
analysis of any emerging skills requirements for the renewable
A plan for a National Skills Academy for the
environment is being developed and this will cover waste to energy
and building systems. The electricity sector is also developing
plans for an Academy, or comparable organisation, that will cover
the network connections for renewables. These bodies can cover
other renewable technologies when the need arises.
I hope that these answers provide sufficient
details, please let me know if you have any further points or
need for clarification.