EuropeOn members are working together to find the solutions the EU desperately needs

EuropeOn members are national associations of electrical contractors who come together under the EuropeOn umbrella to, among others, learn from one another and discuss the best approach to issues that affect all Europeans.

Last week started with a roundtable organised by EuropeOn on gender diversity in the installation sectors. This is part of a series of roundtables aiming to address workforce and skill shortages and shortcomings that are ubiquitous across European countries and pose a serious threat to the attainment of the energy transition.

Gender diversity, in a predominantly male sector such as ours, mainly entails attracting more girls and women in relevant education and careers. Beyond equality, this is an important lever to address the workforce shortages plaguing the installations sectors. Electrical contractors are facing a severely tightened demand for electrical installations but cannot find enough skilled candidates to meet it. This makes it even more pressing to address the lack of gender diversity and make sure that the other 50% of the population is attracted to our industry as well!

Our roundtable features presentations from five expert speakers who gave us their take on increasing gender diversity. We first heard from Eli Heyerdahl from Rørentreprenørene, representing plumbers in Norway, who gave us an overview of how her sector managed to gradually increase the share of women in their workers. It seems there was a great need for changing perceptions about the job and showing that women are just as well suited to it than men. In Norway, Eli has founded a network for women interested and working in this industry to serve as role models for each other and also for younger girls.

Then, Ida Nordin, from Swedish construction company Bravida, told us about her experience as a woman in engineering. Her take was that, while gender biases can make it harder at first for women who have to prove themselves more than men, being a woman is actually a strength as this bias results in women having thicker skin but also because they can have a different perspective and approach to the job that can lead to more productivity and better achievements. This was then confirmed by Professor Joy Clancy (University of Twente, Netherlands) who has worked extensively on the issue of gender in the energy sector and gave us an overview of the situation. In many sectors, the conclusions are the same, women are put off by stereotypes about energy jobs being for men only and can face gender biases but also discrimination, while they often outperform male counterparts and gender diverse teams have been proven to take better decisions. Laura Norton, from the Institute of Engineering and Technology in the UK, presented her organisation’s concrete steps to increase the share of women. They have organised competitions in STEM activities, events to inspire younger girls including awards, promoted role models and ad campaigns to debunk myths and show that engineering is for everyone. Our final presentation came from Beatriz Oliete Galiano who is in charge of the EU-funded ‘Women can build’ project on behalf of the Fundacion Laboral de la Construccion in Spain. She took us around the concrete tools that her project put together to increase gender diversity in construction, entering on education, awareness raising and dissemination.

Later in the week, EuropeOn held another roundtable on how electrical contractors can ‘upsell their game’ to be more in tune with demand and offer a proper response to the green and digital transitions. We started out presentations with EuropeOn Swedish Board member Emma Elheim Karlsson, CEO of Hallabro Elektriska AB. She showed us how her family-run SME has marketed their services by emphasising the CO2-reductions that technical installations lead to. She also captivated the audience with the presentation of an open-air showroom where clients and business partners can have a first look at the various technologies her company can install and integrate. Then, Luke Crossley, Director at AJ Taylor Electrical (UK), gave us an overview of his company and how they managed to diversify their services to answer the growing needs of the population for electrical services, ranging from traditional installations to renewables to alarms and security installations. Troels Blicher Danielsen, Administrative Director at EuropeOn member association Tekniq Arbejdsgiverne (Denmark), presented his association’s work on how their members can contribute to the green and digital transitions but also harness this as a business opportunity. Finally, Terry Heemskerk, working on Technology & Market at Techniek Nederland (Netherlands), showed us how electrical contractors can provide solutions to yet another type of demand, namely senior citizens willing to stay at home independently as long as possible. Their specific needs can be met with new smart technologies that can only be put into function by skilled and well-informed electrical contractors. Our Dutch member association is able to advise electrical professionals on how to position on this growing market and acquire soft skills.

Our last roundtable of the week was planned only recently and centered on the crisis in Ukraine. Our members came together to hold an open discussion on the effects of this crisis on their members, their market and on the governmental priorities. Indeed, phasing out fossil fuels will require more electrification of new sectors, and especially heating. National governments are trying to understand how and how fast they can phase out gas heaters in their citizens’ homes by replacing them with heat pumps. However, electrical contractors have to engage in constructive dialogues with their national authorities to plan this out carefully as there might not be enough professionals around to carry out the installations and some technologies might not be available in sufficient numbers due to supply shortages.

Our members also discussed how the electrical contracting industry get involved with Ukrainian refugees. As thousands of displaced Ukrainians are arriving in EU countries, among which refugees with electrical training, European electrical contracting associations have been thinking about how to re- and/or up-skill them in order for them to be able to work in their host country. This could provide a win-win situation, where Ukrainian refugees can find rewarding work and electrical contracting companies can count on this new workforce to meet the high demand for electrical work. On the other hand, men are often staying in Ukraine to fight and electrical skills will be particularly in need to rebuild the country.