EuropeOn members’ skills experts met in Brussels to overcome skills and workforce shortages

Workers wanted

Attracting more workers and equipping them with the needed skills is the top priority for electrical contractors and hence for EuropeOn and its members. EuropeOn has been vocal about this concern since 2019 when we launched our #Skills4Climate campaign, but this has now become a point of attention for the wider energy industry.

The President the Commission has declared this year to be the “EU Year of Skills” in recognition of the urgency to act on this question, and skills provisions have appeared to a new extent in energy legislation adopted recently by the EU institutions.

But clearly authorities are moving too slowly for the electrical contractors, which are in an increasingly high demand. As clean energy installations, often based on electric technologies, are incentivised by governmental plans for the energy transition and the subject of increased consumer demand due to the energy crises, electrical contractors are keen to attract more workers and increase their number of employees. However, this is not as easy as it looks.

Meeting of EuropeOn’s Skills working group

Against this backdrop, EuropeOn decided to go on the offensive and gather the skills experts of its Skills WG in Brussels for a day of collective brainstorming on how to overcome the issue of workforce shortages. This is a complex issue that has a multitude of causes, from the set up of educational systems, to the image of technical careers and education. Colleagues from GCP Europe, representing mechanical installers, were also participating.

The group first agreed on a(n almost) comprehensive list of obstacles to solving the lack of workers and skills in our sector. Faced with such a wide issue and with so many potential action points, our Skills WG has decided to focus on a few priorities that could hence be addressed more effectively, either at local, national or European level. In particular, we reached the conclusion that increasing the gender diversity of our sector could be an effective contribution to resorbing this workforce gap, which could benefit from a coordinated action.

Indeed, all EuropeOn members agree that, looking at sheer employment figures, it is clear that electrical contractors mostly manage to reach out to the male population when looking for new recruits. This means that roughly half the population is overlooked. Ensuring that women can be better reached would enable electrical contractors to tap into a much larger pool of applicants.

Targeting adult women in the installation sector

But this won’t be easy. Technical education and careers suffer from a poor image, which especially affects female prospects, and even more younger girls. Indeed, we see that among the women joining our sector, many are already adults. The assumption is that they are less receptive to clichés and might have a better idea of what career they want to pursue.

There is still a lot to do in order to make sure that the right conditions are set for adult women looking for career changes to gravitate towards electrical contracting. Adult learning is not always part of our educational cultures and the path to becoming for instance an electrician is often not clear to career changers. Further, existing electrical contracting companies will also have to adapt to more gender diversity (this also includes developing childcare, part-time work, clear red lines on discriminations). Public employment services must also overcome their biases and make sure that technical and manual careers are not kept from women.

More conclusions and findings will soon be circulated, so stay tuned!