How to get a career in the electricity industry

The electricity industry is in need of a new generation of engineers with the skills to work on the energy systems of the future as it begins to benefit from a range of new smart and low carbon technologies

The electricity network sector is meeting a constant demand for power, with a workforce that is ever-growing. A reliable supply of electricity is the backbone of almost all commercial industries, so distribution must be efficient and secure.

There is a wide range of careers in the sector especially for those with a strong understanding or interest in electrical systems, and problem-solving skills. With an average starting salary of £16,000, we take a look at careers in the energy networks sector and some of the routes towards employment.

Apprenticeships which combine the development of vocational skills with practical work experience are one of the most popular routes into a career in electricity, and they are offered in many colleges across the UK. The options are varied, with qualifications available in estimating, electrical design, electrical contracts and technical electrician diplomas.

Power distribution apprenticeships are supported by some major employers in the industry, and they nurture ‘work-ready’ candidates who have experience of the work environment and a wealth of technical knowledge. Many professionals in the distribution sector build their career through a power network craftsperson advanced apprenticeship or a higher apprenticeship for electrical power network engineers. Other relevant college courses include the Level 2 Certificate in Electrical and Electronic Engineering Technology and the Level 3 Diploma in Engineering Technology.

If you are already employed in the electrical industry after securing the necessary certificates, you could apply for a place on an engineering training scheme to develop distribution skills. Bachelor’s degrees in engineering are also recognised by employers, and the specialism which they cover can often enhance employment prospects and open the door to graduate programmes in the energy sector.

Along with a recognised certificate, having good knowledge of public safety, problem-solving skills, a secure grasp of computer systems and patience are all valued attributes in an aspiring electrical distributor. A willingness to learn in challenging environments (such as during the night and working on heights) is vital, as the day to day life of an electrical distributor can be varied.

As a reputable employer in the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire, Northern Powergrid is helping bring a new generation of people into the sector through its 2019 Graduate and Technical Staff Trainee Engineer Programme, and Trainee Engineer (Foundation Degree) Programme. By offering such initiative, the company is future-proofing its workforce through the development of new talents.

Becky Robson, Northern Powergrid’s Head of People, said: “We want to attract a new generation of brilliant, agile engineers who can energise their career, strengthen our workforce and help us deliver our £3 billion programme of investments and improvements for our customers now and in the future.”

The UK skills gap is becoming an increasingly discussed matter, and industries are constantly evaluating the scale of their shortages. The UK government declared 2018 ‘The Year of Engineering’, to remedy the skills shortage by enticing new employees into the industry. Studies showed that for the engineering sector to overcome the skills gap, 186,000 recruits would be required to fill vacant roles in the field each year until 2024.

For those who choose to pursue a career in the energy industry, having hands-on experience as well as technical knowledge and interpersonal skills will boost employment prospects.

The electricity network distribution sector is a field which is vital for upholding the day-to-day running of many businesses and promoting future talent to join the industry will require further emphasis on the diversity of routes and opportunities available to secure a rewarding career.

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