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Offshore wind to create 70k jobs in the next five years

By Calum MacLeod

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Investment in the UK offshore wind sector is expected to rise to £60 bn by 2026.
Investment in the UK offshore wind sector is expected to rise to £60 bn by 2026.

The number of people working in direct and indirect jobs in the UK’s offshore wind industry is set to jump from 26,000 currently to over 69,800 by 2026, according to new research from the Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC).

Scotland is likely to be one of the main beneficiaries of the jobs boost, along with the north east of England, Yorkshire and The Humber and East Anglia.

Scotland currently has the highest proportion of offshore wind jobs at 30 per cent. Yorkshire and The Humber has 15 per cent , the north east of England 10 per cent and the east of England also has 10 per cent.

The forecast shows that regional percentages will be maintained at this level as jobs increase over the course of this decade, providing sustained long-term growth in these areas.

The private sector will invest £60.8 billion across the UK over the next five years in developing, constructing and operating offshore wind projects as the industry expands rapidly to help the Government to achieve its net zero emissions goal. The average annual investment will be £10.1 billion between 2021 and 2026, and investment in 2026 alone will reach a peak of £10.6 billion.

The Offshore Wind Skills Intelligence Report was commissioned by OWIC's Investment In Talent Group which was set up as part of the Offshore Wind Sector Deal agreed with UK Government in 2019. The work has been done by RenewableUK, the National Skils Acaemy for Rail and independent data analysts Opergy Ltd.

The survey is by far the most comprehensive ever conducted in the UK into the full extent of the economic benefits of offshore wind. For the first time it includes direct and indirect jobs as well as self-employed people who make up 14 per cent of the total workforce.

OWIC’s Skills Intelligence Model (SIM) shows how the UK will benefit from job creation in offshore wind over the next five years.
OWIC’s Skills Intelligence Model (SIM) shows how the UK will benefit from job creation in offshore wind over the next five years.

Researchers have compiled the most detailed offshore wind jobs database by inputting thousands of data points from the companies of all sizes, mapping where people are employed, what type of work they do and how the workforce will expand over the next five years. Of the 69,848 jobs by 2026, 40,700 will be direct (nearly 60 per cent) and 29,148 will be indirect (in companies supplying other industries as well as offshore wind).

The highest percentage of responses came from supply chain companies (39 per cent), reflecting the importance of the UK offshore wind supply chain in job creation. 29 per cent came from offshore wind farm developers and operators. 27 per cent were from UK companies involved in manufacturing specialist products for the sector (original equipment manufacturers or OEMs).

The wide range of jobs includes engineers, project managers, software designers, component manufactures, turbine technicians, welders, deep sea divers, boat crews and helicopter pilots. 79 per cent of these jobs are highly skilled, technical and management roles. Apprenticeships make up 1.8 per cent of the UK workforce, half of which are in Yorkshire and the Humber. The industry has committed to raising this to 2.5 per cent as soon as possible.

The offshore wind industry is looking in particular to fill vacancies for electrical engineers, civil engineers, project managers, surveyors, data analysts and digital specialists in roles based onshore as well as offshore.

At present, women make up 18 per cent of the workforce and the industry has committed to increasing this to at least one-third by 2030 – and to reach a stretch target of 40 per cent if possible.

The survey also shows that the industry currently offers well-balanced range of opportunities for people with skills and qualifications at every level, from GCSEs and A-levels to Higher Education Certificates and Diplomas and university degrees. 71 per cent of the workforce have qualifications in Higher Education (higher than A-levels or their equivalent in BTECs).

Developing the offshore wind supply chain is a key commitment in the sector deal; the industry is investing £100 million over this decade on measures to ensure we increase the UK lifetime content of offshore wind farms from 48 per cent currently to 60 per cent by 2030.

OWIC industry chairwoman Danielle Lane, UK Country Manager for Vattenfall, said: “The UK offshore wind industry employs thousands of people in parts of the country which other sectors fail to reach and which need levelling up the most. This month GE Renewable Energy announced that it will open a massive offshore wind turbine blade manufacturing plant on Teesside, transforming a former steelworks site into a high-tech clean energy powerhouse and boosting our innovative UK supply chain.

“We offer opportunities to people from all backgrounds and with qualifications at every level to work in an industry which is playing a crucial role in tackling dangerous climate change, enabling us to meet the Government’s net zero emissions target as fast as possible."

Offshore Wind Industry Council jobs and investment forecast.
Offshore Wind Industry Council jobs and investment forecast.

RenewableUK’s deputy chief executive Melanie Onn, who leads on OWIC’s People and Skills work, said: “We’ll see a surge of tens of thousands of new jobs over the next five years as offshore wind will put the rocket boosters under the UK’s green economic recovery. By investing over £60 billion of private capital between now and 2026, this industry is helping to kickstart our economy after the pandemic.

“Renewables are creating new opportunities for people across the UK, from school-leavers and graduates to workers leaving fossil fuel industries, and we want to ensure the right training and support is in place to harness all the talent and expertise we’ll need in the transition to clean energy”.

UK energy minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “The environmental benefits of our world-leading offshore wind sector are clear to see, but as this study shows we’ll also have tens of thousands more jobs created in the sector in just the next few years alone.

“This is a sector with a bright future and earlier this week we published the Government’s North Sea Transition Deal which sets out how the UK will maximise the huge potential of our natural resources for clean renewable energy and attract more than £60 billion of private investment over the next five years, creating jobs while also ending our contribution to climate change by 2050.”

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