Gas, water and electricity workers could demand Premier League-level salaries in future if the skills shortage in the utilities sector is not dealt with by the government and employers.
The warning comes from Develop Training Limited (DTL), the UK’s leading accredited provider of compliance, technical and safety training in the utility sector.
Chris Wood, CEO, said: “Most people will be unaware of a looming catastrophe, one that threatens to literally turn Britain’s lights out. The chronic skills shortage in the utilities, energy and construction industries means companies are fishing from the same small pool of talent, which is inevitably pushing up salaries.
“If the skills shortage isn’t tackled head on, those few who do have the skills and experience will become more and more valuable, as companies struggle to maintain the level of service consumers are currently receiving, and we’ll eventually see wage inflation to unsustainable levels, maybe even rivalling Premiership footballers.”
The warning is equally ominous for business leaders and consumers alike, with rising wage bills set to be passed on to the consumer via a hike in service prices.
Since the start of the year, DTL has been hosting a series of industry round table events to share best practice, generate ideas and tangible action plans to tackle the crisis.
The events have been well received, with representatives from Balfour Beatty, Skanska UK, Siemens, tRIIO, SGN, City & Guilds, Energy & Utility Skills, Servelec Controls and Mentor Training Solutions among those taking an active role in discussions.
Wood said: “We desperately need to attract and train young people to take the places of the ageing workforce in these vital industries. If we can turn this situation around, we can have confidence that the lights will stay on, our heating will continue to warm our houses, and our taps will continue to provide running water.
“Otherwise, the day is fast approaching when there will simply not be enough workers available to perform these vital jobs. We are already seeing wage inflation as employers compete for a dwindling workforce, and that trend will continue until there is an upturn in the number of new recruits.”
“School leavers and young people, as well as those currently unemployed, need to be made aware of the benefits of apprenticeships and the opportunities available in the utility sector,” he said. “We also need to overcome prejudice against work that is seen as manual labour rather than vital, skilled work.
“In order to make this happen, the education system needs to engage school students early on, just as they used to, before universities were seen as the most accepted route of further education.
“Let’s all work together to ensure apprenticeships are efficiently marketed to everyone as a respected first choice alongside academic routes and not a second best option.”