Addressing the skills challenge

Lindsay Warren, Founder and Managing Director of Net Zero Evolution, discusses the impact of the skills shortage and what can be done to address it.

As we all know, the targets set by the UK Government for EV charge point installations have gradually been slipping behind. Every day the average amount of charge points needing to be installed each day increases as we fall further behind our target. Some estimations suggest that we need the daily target to quadruple if we are to stand any chance of reaching the 2030 target.

And this isn’t just about getting charge points into the ground. Failure to meet these targets will have a potentially catastrophic impact on the ban of ICE vehicles in the UK. If there’s not enough infrastructure, then of course, people won’t get on board with our mission.

The increasing pressure to deliver more and more each day leads to a question that not many people know how to solve. 

“Where are we going to find the people with the right skills to carry out this work?”

The term “skills shortage” is thrown around a lot in many different sectors, but rarely does it have the potential to have such a negative impact on the success of an entire industry.

While we are all aware that this is an issue, very little is currently being done to solve the problem. And we must act NOW!

“How exactly do you propose we do that Lindsay?”

Well, there are plenty of ways we can reduce the impact of the skills shortage but often they are siloed and there isn’t an industry wide, joined up approach. We all need to work together.

Firstly, we need to start offering more apprenticeship programs right now. Apprentices who begin their journey this September will be fully qualified by 2027 and will be a core part of your team. They cost very little and with the Apprenticeship Levy they are often free so there really is no excuse to not onboard a couple each year and start building for the future.

Further education and training programmes are a must. There are many electricians, technicians and other skilled staff that would love the opportunity to be upskilled or retrained and become a part of the EV revolution. These programs should be a joined-up approach between Government and private training companies and will then likely be partnered with potential employers / agencies to find the right work for the right person. Our training partner EPTS, recently opened their EV Academy which is one of the UKs first dedicated EV training schools and I expect to see some more over the next few years. 

Incentivising the existing skilled workforce is also critical. There are lots of NAPIT / NICEIC accredited electricians out in the UK working as self-employed contractors earning significant sums of money. The likelihood that these people would close their business for a salary of £35K installing charge points is so slim that I would suggest it’s a waste of time trying. Unless of course we can incentivise these individuals. Bonuses for additional charge points installed, signing-on bonuses to get them into the industry alongside clear, achievable, long-term progression plans to help them develop into leaders as they enter the latter stages of their career are just a few ideas that could help encourage people to take the leap.

And then we have the key area of recruitment strategy. It is so important that we try and keep salaries at a decent level and by continuing to recruit in the small pool of existing EV charging talent we are continually driving up the salaries which could end up being a whole new problem that the industry would need to contend with. Yes of course, it’s great that they can “hit the ground running” but there are a plenty of alternative sectors that should be considered when going out to market to make a hire. For on-street charging we should be looking at street lighting and smart motorways. For commercial charging let’s look at heavy industrial equipment installers and technicians that are used to installing new electrical equipment at commercial sites. And for DC rapids we need to be hunting in the HV / LV transformer, substations and switchgear arenas. These people will already have the level of knowledge that is required for the most cost-effective upskilling solutions.

To further bridge the gap between industry and education, I have recently become a CIPD Enterprise Adviser. This will give us all the opportunity to get in front of secondary school students and furnish them with information about EV charging and the different paths they can take to come and work in our vibrant and rapidly evolving sector.

If your business is interested in supporting schools and colleges and cementing your name in their minds as they begin making decisions about future careers, then just drop me a note and we can talk about setting something up.

We must act now, and total collaboration is the only way forward!

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