Today, Kier Utilities has pledged its support to the Energy & Utilities Skills sector inclusion commitment, an initiative that looks to attract more diverse and inclusive talent in to the industry. Here, Barry McNicholas, executive director of Kier Utilities, explains why this campaign is vital.  

“In the UK, the utilities sector serves 65 million people every single day. It is the lifeblood of the UK economy and provides vital infrastructure, such as gas, electricity and water to homes, schools, hospitals and businesses across the country.

And yet, we are failing to attract a diverse workforce that reflects the communities that we work in.

The utilities industry employs approximately 560,000 people but research by Energy & Utility Skills highlights that of those working within it, 83% are male, compared to 47% for all sectors nationally. This is a statistic that frankly does not sit comfortably with me.

We must do more to attract a more diverse workforce and look to encourage more women, people with disabilities, the BAME community and under 24s to consider a career within our fascinating and rewarding sector.

The need to redress the balance has never been so important. Our sector is facing a skills crisis, with the potential need for 220,000 new recruits over the next ten years. Whilst this presents opportunity, it is imperative that we look to secure the very best talent in to our sector. Forbes highlighted in a recent article, a balanced business brings about huge benefits and we simply cannot ignore the fact that we must do more.   

Identifying a problem is one thing, but what can actually be done to create more diverse workforces?

The first step is collaboration. In order to bring about real change, organisations across utilities must unite and drive change in order to attract, recruit and retain new talent.

I am proud that, Kier will be one of 32 employers supporting the Energy & Utility Skills Inclusion Commitment. Each organisation has pledged to support five principles;

1. Work collaboratively as a sector to drive change, challenging ourselves to do things differently, by sharing best practice and delivering sector priorities

2. Focus on inclusion in its entirety, however our sector history requires targeted sector action to start by increasing gender, BAME and disability workforce representation.

3. Measure and be transparent about progress in our individual organisations and as a sector.

4. Ensure we create the culture we need to attract the workforce of tomorrow.

5. Be inclusive in the way we attract, recruit and develop our people.

I am relishing the opportunity to work with other like-minded and forward-thinking organisations, that mirror our group-wide aims at Kier, to bring diversity to the forefront of the agenda.

Just this month, we launch our 2019 diversity report, ‘attracting, retaining and developing a diverse workforce’, which provides a wealth of insights, case studies and measures we are taking to be a more balanced business. 

A key element of this is engaging with the next generation of talent, to try and peak an interest in the built environment at a time when they are making decisions about what career or subjects to choose.  Currently only 1% of all higher education leavers and 5% of engineering graduates from a STEM background enter the UK energy and utilities industry. Over the last year, we have interacted with over 15,000 schoolchildren, through our Shaping Your World™ campaign as we proactively engage and look to inspire potential employees about the wealth of opportunity for those that join our sector

Creating balanced businesses within our industry will be key to delivering the Government’s Infrastructure Strategy but it will also create dynamic and inclusive workforces that are truly representative of the communities in which we serve – and that for me, is vital.”

Read more about our commitment to the Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership here