The renewable energy industry has a central role in meeting the UK’s net zero targets, but the sector must address its ageing workforce to avoid skills challenges in the future according to new research by the ECITB.

The renewables sector, which includes wind, wave, tidal, hydro power, solar and biomass, is the fifth largest in terms of distribution of the engineering construction industry (ECI) workforce.

However, analysis of data provided by ECITB-registered companies operating in the renewables sector, suggests the sector has more over 60s and fewer workers between the ages of 30 and 59 (16% and 47% respectively) than the wider ECI (12% and 50% respectively). Only 13% of the workforce is under the age of 30, slightly below the ECI average (15%).

The ECITB’s Workforce Census provides a detailed snapshot of the engineering construction supply chain workforce and reveals the key challenges facing industry. It suggests that companies in the renewable industry supply chain will need to attract transferees from other sectors as well as do more to recruit younger generations in order to meet the anticipated growth in the renewables sector over the coming decades.

In terms of current occupations, turbine technicians and electrical fitters are among the most prominent roles, representing 40% of technicians and 27% of craftsperson respectively.

Chris Claydon, Chief Executive of the ECITB, said: “We know that the renewables workforce will be at the forefront of the energy transition and the investment that has been committed to support growth in the sector is significant. It is vital that we provide employers with the skills they need to deliver the full range of planned projects.

“Although the renewables sector is usually seen as more attractive to younger people compared to conventional energy, it seems the companies in scope to the ECITB are not seeing this effect yet. More work needs to be done to create a pipeline of skilled workers for net zero, an area that the ECITB is committed to supporting through schemes such as our Energy Transfer technician programme.”

Chris Claydon - ECITB Chief Executive

Conducted in Spring 2021, the Workforce Census asked engineering construction industry (ECI) employers to provide information about their workforce numbers, locations and roles. Data collected included demographic information and asked for views on workforce growth, Net Zero, Covid-19 and Brexit. Fifty percent of the ECITB’s in-scope employers responded to the Workforce Census, representing 45,351 workers from 153 in-scope companies across 1,360 locations.

The report produced by the ECITB highlights an urgent need to address potential skills and labour shortages as employer responses show an ageing workforce and slow recruitment of new talent in some sectors. This is concerning given the workforce expansion required to deliver net zero by the Government’s 2050 deadline.

Read the ECITB Workforce Census Sectoral Report