UK’s first battery strategy ‘step in the right direction’ for energy recruitment

The Government’s first battery strategy for the UK has been welcomed as a step in the right direction when it comes to addressing the significant skills challenge facing the battery sector.

The document sets out how the Department for Business and Trade plans to achieve its vision for the UK to have a ‘globally competitive battery supply chain that supports economic prosperity and the net zero transition by 2030’.

Energy specialists at Midlands-based Jonathan Lee Recruitment say the extent of the skills crisis can’t be underestimated, and warn the whole strategy could fail without a robust plan for long-term recruitment.

Of the 69 pages, one and a half pages focus on skills, acknowledging that ‘a thriving UK battery industry requires a productive workforce with skills along the entire battery value chain and at all levels’.

Lee Elwell

Lee Elwell, Associate Director and Energy Specialist at Jonathan Lee Recruitment, said: “Demand for workers in the battery industry is already high; our business has seen a 22% increase in energy recruitment here this year.

“We use various methods to match businesses with new employees, such as identifying where similar skillsets exist, effective targeted recruitment, benchmarking salaries and benefits and by using our extensive network of contacts built up over 45 years.

‘Robust long-term recruitment plan needed’

“However, when you’re talking about an industry that needs hundreds of thousands of workers over the next decade, even the best strategic recruitment can only take you so far. This vision of a globally competitive battery supply chain could easily fail without a robust plan for long-term recruitment.

“The Faraday Institution estimates that meeting domestic demand for electric vehicles alone would boost UK employment by around 270,000 jobs by 2040. That’s without factoring in jobs needed for the battery storage element that is also essential to meeting net zero targets.

“Therefore the strategy had to contain grassroots plans for more education and more training, and while there’s only one and a bit pages on skills, and one out of 15 action points linked to that issue, it’s a promising start at least.

“Recent investments in identifying and addressing skills gaps, followed by the implementation of new vocational and technical training initiatives, such as the Battery Workforce Training Initiative by University College Birmingham here in the Midlands, are significant and welcomed.”

“As well as encouraging young people to choose battery manufacture or electric vehicle technician type roles as a career choice, we also need to make it as easy as possible for workers from the automotive sector to reskill into EV roles.

“We need to make sure that businesses in these sectors are aware of the training on offer, both for upskilling of existing workers and by linking up with colleges and training providers to access some of the newly qualified recruits as they’re coming through.

“That’s something we can help businesses with as part of our recruitment planning and strategy services. When you’re competing for staff in a candidates’ market, you have to be strategic in your recruitment. That means exploring all avenues, being creative, being willing to compromise and knowing where to pitch salaries and benefits in order to attract the best people.”

Many automotive workers will ‘transition to EV technology’

The Battery Strategy was published alongside the Advanced Manufacturing Plan and included the Government’s commitment to over £2bn in new capital and R&D funding being made available for the manufacture and development of zero emission vehicles, their batteries and supply chain from now to 2030.

This is in addition to industry investments from the likes of Envision AESC in Sunderland, and Tata, which has committed to a new UK gigafactory for Jaguar Land Rover. There are also plans for the world’s largest battery storage scheme to be built in Manchester by Carlton Power, while Pulse Clean Energy intends to invest more than £1bn (with support from the UK Infrastructure Bank) in the deployment of grid-scale battery energy storage systems across 20 sites in England, Scotland and Wales between 2023 and 2026.

The strategy says that many automotive workers will transition to EV technology, but comprehensive reskilling and upskilling programs will still be essential to ensuring the availability of the required workforce at the right time and place.

Research carried out by organisations including the Automotive Council Skills group, the Faraday Institution and HVM Catapult estimates production staff in the core process elements of cell production make up around half the workforce, requiring qualification levels of L2/L3. A further 30% are maintenance and engineering technicians requiring L3 to L6. Remaining positions in a gigafactory are highly skilled, often needing degree-level qualifications or higher.

In addition to £3.2m given to three universities to deliver Level 2-3 training in batteries, the Faraday Battery Challenge is funding the National Electrification Skills Framework and Forum to champion the need for electrification workforce development programmes across all skills levels.

The Government committed £50m to the delivery of a two-year apprenticeship pilot which explores ways of stimulating training in growth sectors as part of the Autumn Statement.

The Government’s new Battery Strategy Taskforce will continue to meet to advise on the delivery on the strategy.

To talk about recruitment for your energy enterprise, please contact Lee Elwell (Associate Director, Energy) on 01384 446154, or email [email protected].