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Study sees 260% growth in UK offshore wind jobs by 2032, severe competition for talent

The Blyth offshore wind park. Source: EDF Energy (www.edfenergy.com).

November 5 (Renewables Now) - The UK offshore wind industry, which could add nearly 29 GW of capacity by 2032, is expected to face intense competition for skilled talent, a study by Energy & Utility Skills reveals.

Commissioned by the University of Hull's Aura initiative and Green Port Hull, the study analyses a pipeline of 65 known or planned offshore wind projects. It says the country could reach an installed offshore wind capacity of 35 GW by 2032, up from 6.4 GW operational in 2017, under an “ambitious, yet credible” scenario. Currently there are 8.1 GW under construction, 8.5 GW consented and 12.1 GW being planned.

A likely three-fold increase in the number of operational offshore wind turbines is to result in significant employment growth compared to current levels. According to the study, direct employment in the sector could jump to 36,000 jobs in 2032 from 10,000 in 2017.

Most of the new wind capacity is expected to occur in the North Sea and much of the employment growth will also be there. Estimates of capacity additions and jobs growth for the top offshore wind expansion regions in the UK are available in the table below, as presented in the “Skills and Labour Requirements of the UK Offshore Wind Industry” study.

UK region Additional capacity Additional jobs
East of England up to 8.5 GW +6,150
Scotland up to 7.5 GW +6,400
Yorkshire & Humber up to 6.4 GW +5,750
North East up to 4.9 GW +4,050

According to Energy & Utility Skills' study, peak construction of offshore wind is expected next year, with 8.6 GW under construction, and in 2024 when that figure could stand at 9.5 GW. Employment levels will increase in all project phases, but most of all in construction & installation, where up to 6,700 jobs are expected to be created, and in operations & maintenance (O&M) with 6,900 more jobs. Technicians and engineers will be the most sought after, with an estimated additional requirement for 10,200 by 2032.

Meanwhile, it is estimated that refurbishing and expanding the UK’s essential infrastructure will require GBP 240 billion (USD 312bn/EUR 273.4bn) of investment in the next four years, including GBP 57 billion for energy, resulting in significant demand for labour.

“The availability of new talent could be an issue given that the labour market is currently extremely tight (record high employment and low unemployment) and shows little sign of easing – a situation that could be further impacted upon by post-Brexit immigration policies,” say the authors of the study. They add that estimates are showing the UK is already short of roughly 20,000 engineering graduates per year.

The study provides recommendations for the offshore wind sector to consider in order to be able to ensure access to talent in the coming years. Among these is the promotion of skills development throughout the supply chain and supply chain collaboration to aggregate training demand, activities to promote the offshore wind industry to females, to people from a black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) background, and to other under-represented communities, and regular reviews of the project pipeline and employment projections for the UK to maintain visibility of industry labour demands.

Charlie Giblin, CEO of niche clean energy recruitment business Mint Selection, highlights the significance of the offshore wind market in the UK. Asked for a comment on the report's findings, he said: "As a result of the focussed investment, new technology and supportive government policies, we will see a range of hotspots emerging for offshore wind development. This is particularly the case in the northeast region of the UK, which already serves several existing and planned large offshore wind projects in the North Sea. This considerable growth will mean a rapid demand for local skilled talent and the requirement for more specialist training programs."

(GBP 1 = USD 1.3/EUR 1.14)

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Browse all articles from Tsvetomira Tsanova

Tsvet has been following the development of the global renewable energy industry for almost nine years. She's got a soft spot for emerging markets.

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