The IEE is commencing the second year of the Power Academy, an initiative from the IEE, the UK's electricity network companies and leading UK universities to address the critical skills shortage in the power engineering sector.
Around 25% of the industry's most experienced and senior engineers, who keep the country's electricity networks running, will retire within the next five to 10 years, with little sign that they are being replenished. This will create a potentially serious deficit if more young people are not attracted into the profession.
The Power Academy aims to attract more students to power engineering courses with a mix of financial incentives, technical training and business education. Southampton University, one of the partnering universities, has already seen a 31% increase in students applying for power engineering courses. The Academy will also promote the opportunities for an exciting and rewarding career in the power industry.
UK Energy Minister Mike O'Brien said: “I am very encouraged to know that since my predecessor Stephen Timms launched Power Academy last June, there has been a marked increase in applicants for power engineering courses. This shows that the Power Academy has been successful in raising the profile of power engineering amongst young people aspiring to go to university.
Skills in the electricity industry is a crucial issue due to the dependence society places on a reliable and secure electricity supply. The Power Academy should help to address a potential skills shortage in the electrical power industry – particularly amongst graduates. The Government is keenly following the progress of the Power Academy as well as other initiatives that have a remit on broader skills at all levels.”
Bob Taylor, Managing Director of Central Network, believes that the Power Academy is integral to the future of power engineering: “We are entering an investment phase in the power sector and this initiative will form a key source of future power engineers for the network businesses and for those that supply and support them.”
The Academy has been so successful that already the project is expanding to bring in new partners. ABB, Atkins Power, Areva, Queens University in Belfast, Siemens, VA Tech, and Viridian have already committed. In addition, key employers in Northern Ireland are expected to join.
They join a list of supporters including CE Electric, Central Networks, EA Technology, EDF Energy, National Grid Transco, Scottish and Southern Energy, Scottish Power, United Utilities, Western Power Distribution and the Universities of Manchester, Southampton and Strathclyde. Energy & Utility Skills, the sector skills council, is also a major supporter.
Power engineers are responsible for the design and implementation of large-scale infrastructure projects that power the nation and are employed by, amongst others, the major electricity network companies. The Power Academy will help ensure there are sufficient engineers entering the industry to meet future needs, by co-ordinating cooperation between the electricity network companies and university engineering departments.