Skills take the centre stage at the EU Sustainable Energy Week

The constraints arising from shortages of workers with modern and green skills have become increasingly salient in the past few years and certainly since EuropeOn made it a priority issue. This was back in 2019, when we started our #Skill4Climate campaign. EuropeOn members were already all in agreement about the urgent need to address the workforce dimension of energy transition policies. Back then, among industry and policymakers working on energy, the skills question was understood as an important enabler but there was no sense of urgency to tackle this issue head on.

Fast forward to 2023 and skills have become much more central in EU politics. 2023 is actually the EU Year of Skills, as was announced by Commission President von der Leyen herself. Building on this momentum, the annual EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW), which includes a three-day conference, has also made skills a top theme for its policy sessions.

It is very positive to see that skills are becoming a focal point for energy transition policies, but there is bit of an elephant in the room here. Investing in skills is important, but we first need to make sure to have enough workers to train! Upskilling is key to meet the challenges ahead but we first need people to actually upskill.

The necessity to first attract more workers is a key component of EuropeOn’s messaging in this skills debate. EuropeOn has been represented in two events on skills in the past month where this consideration was prominent.

At EUSEW, EuropeOn’s own Federico Fucci reiterated the need to attract more applicants to the electrotechnical sector and to energy transition jobs while speaking at an event on e-mobility skills. Another point of attention he raised at this event is to invest in fully qualified professionals as opposed to banking on short trainings to address the workforce gap. As EV charging should be integrated with surrounding energy systems and within buildings it is key that installers (or integrators really) have a complete skillset.

Short training can be seen as an easy fix but will yield an under-qualified workforce in the long run, even though this workforce will still be relied upon to ensure our electrified economy keeps running.

Increasing our numbers entails changing mindsets about technical education and careers, which suffer from unfair misconceptions, keeping people away from our sector. Working on attractiveness should start at the earliest stages by reaching out to youth (and especially girls) and parents, through communication campaigns but also by investing in technical schools and teachers to make those more attractive as well. Through this strategy, we’ll have more people joining our professions, who can be fully qualified as they’ll have a better chance to go through the full educational curriculum.

Earlier in June, Julie Beaufils, Secretary General at EuropeOn, made similar points at an online event organised in the framework of the EU Green Week. This time, the focus was on skills necessary for fire safety, and in our case electrical safety. The latter should not be underestimated as about half of accidental fires across Europe have an electrical origin. The conclusions were similar: we need more people and they should be fully qualified!

Watch the recording of the EU Sustainable Energy Week event on e-mobility.

Watch the recording of the EU Green Week event on fire safety.