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Awards Celebrate Procurement Initiative’s Success in Driving Skills Investment

Left to right - guest speakers David Wright (National Grid) and Keith Waller(Infrastructure and Projects Authority) with award winner Robin Denton of Alpha Construction with Nick Ellins, Energy & Utility Skills

Energy and utilities companies that signed a pledge to promote investment in training and development through procurement across their supply chains are being recognised at a ceremony recently (11th May 2018) at the Crowne Plaza in Birmingham.

Hosted by Energy & Utility Skills, the event featured guest addresses from David Wright, Chief Electricity Engineer at National Grid and the Infrastructure and Projects Authority’s Senior Adviser Keith Waller.

The event was organised to coincide with the release of the Annual Report results of the Procurement Skills Accord which chart the initiative’s performance during its first year.

The companies have committed to:

1)         address sector-wide skills gaps & shortages

2)         promote signing up to the Accord through their supply chain

3)         promote relevant skills development across the supply chain through procurement

4)         continuously improve performance

5)         monitor and report relevant performance

The Annual Report results include a series of encouraging outcomes:

  • nearly 74% of eligible companies (28 of 38) achieved the commitments.
  • of the 28,* four attained over 95% of available marks.
  • close to 70% of the companies with a relevant supply chain onboarded at least one new suppler.
  • eighty-six percent of signatories demonstrated a commitment to continuous improvement through sustainable workforce practices.
  • a 1.5% increase in the percentage of the eligible workforce of nearly 39,000 were given access to technical and operational training during the last year – up from 9.5% to 11%.

The 2015 National Infrastructure Plan for Skills identified a number of challenges across sectors, regions and skills groups, to keep productivity high, costs affordable and ensure the delivery of the infrastructure pipeline to 2020 and beyond.

One of the key challenges was to find a mechanism to incentivise skills investment through procurement and engagement approaches that would provide appropriate incentives to retrain and up-skill the workforce to meet future skills demands. The energy and utilities sector’s work to meet this challenge through the Procurement Skills Accord Project was recognised and welcomed by Her Majesty’s Treasury.

The Accord was piloted in October 2016 by Amey, National Grid, SSE, Thames Water and UK Power Networks. This group led the development of the concept and consulted on the approach to procurement and investment in training with their strategic suppliers. The number of signatories, of lead and supply chain companies, has since grown to 38 – over 90% of these companies would recommend others join them.

Kate Davies, Chief Operating Officer at Energy & Utility Skills,* said: “The Procurement Skills Accord was built by the Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership and it is exciting to see such progress after just one year. The Procurement Skills Accord’s commitments are robust and are part of ensuring our sector proactively tackles its skills challenges through investment in its current workforce through the supply chain as well as creating new opportunities. By focusing on formal training programmes targeted in areas of current and future skills shortages, participating companies are ensuring appropriate impact in the right place. The results achieved and the awards are well deserved.”

Nick Ellins, Chief Executive at Energy & Utility Skills, added: “The results of the Procurement Skills Accord shows how structured collaboration between the asset holders and their supply chain partners increases investment in training and builds valuable resilience in to the sector’s workforce.

“We can all talk about achieving resilient UK infrastructure, but unless you have the people and capabilities to make it resilient, it’s an arbitrary point. The workforce in the utility sector, is delivering the largest single contribution to the £0.5 trillion National Infrastructure Plan and daily essential services of key strategic value to the UK economy.”

A number of the signatory companies also gave their reflections on the Accord:

Amey’s Managing Director of Utilities, David Mcloughlin, said: “The Accord helps us to increase our focus and improve our approach to investing in people and skills for the future. It brings an extra dimension as it connects us to our clients and suppliers in developing the workforce resilience essential to the utilities industry.”

“As part of our ongoing commitment to addressing the skills shortage in the industry, Balfour Beatty is proud to have met with the Accord’s commitments,” added Colin Scott, Head of Procurement – Power Transmission & Distribution. “The real challenge and reward for us has been working with our supply chain partners to ensure they have the same level of commitment to the skills and development. This has helped us choose the right partners to further develop the much-needed skills within our industry.”

Barry McNicholas, Executive Director at Kier Utilities, commented: “Kier Utilities is very proud of our commitment to the Accord, joining with our clients and partners to create and develop our industry’s future technical and operational workforce.”

Sandrine Tidy, Senior HR Business Partner at Morgan Sindall, commented “Being part of the Accord is important to our business strategy. Ensuring we are investing in the development of existing and future workforces is key to addressing the skills shortage across the industry as it grows and evolves. As part of our involvement, we have been working with our supply chain to introduce them to the Accord and the great benefits it provides in supporting with training and workforce development.”

David Wright, Chief Electricity Engineer at National Grid, added: “In National Grid we will continue to promote skills development in the supply chain to ensure we meet the needs of our customers and stakeholders, now and for years to come. The Procurement Skills Accord allows us to leverage our collective position in the industry and reach out to our supply chain partners with a common voice.  Only by working together will we be successful.”

Keith Waller, Senior Adviser at the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, commented “Over £60bn is to be spent each year in delivering the National Infrastructure Plan, and boosting the productivity and skills of the workforce that delivers it is vital. Congratulations to every business that has successfully passed the audits to win the Procurement Skills Accord awards, it is fantastic to see the progress that has been made. I urge you though to not stop here or rest on your laurels, and seek even higher levels of workforce investment to help secure the most efficient infrastructure delivery possible.”   

Mark Horsley, Chief Executive of Northern Gas Networks, said: “We’re pleased to be part of the Energy and Utilities Skills Partnership and the Procurement Skills Accord. At Northern Gas Networks, talented people are the lifeblood of our business and we’re continually investing in our colleagues to help us be the world-beating business we aspire to be. 

“Initiatives like the Accord, that encourage development of people at the heart of organisations, are so valuable in allowing businesses and the wider sector to grow. We believe in innovation and this begins with helping colleagues to grow and find new skills that they can put into practice every day.”

Andy Bilclough, Northern Powergrid’s Head of Delivery (City Zones), stated: “We’re proud to be part of the Accord. Providing training and development to enhance the skills of people working in our industry is key, and the Accord is helping us to extend this priority beyond our business and into our supply chain. 

“Through our procurement processes we’re ensuring that our suppliers and contractors demonstrate how they are improving skills across their workforce, and delivering training and development that will attract and retain quality people. 

“Our sector is going through exciting changes with growth in low-carbon and smart technologies. As we move towards more active networks, ensuring we have access to highly skilled people, both in our business and via our supply chain, is vital. The Accord will support our focus on engaging the skilled professionals we need to manage our network now and in the future for our customers.”

Colin Nicol, Managing Director, Networks, SSE, said: “As one of the organisations involved in the development of the concept, SSE is very proud of the achievements of the Procurement Skills Accord over the last two years. The initiative is now widely recognised and, by taking steps to proactively promote the Accord and integrate its use within our systems, we are now seeing real benefits.

“SSE is a people and assets business and we recognise that investing in a healthy and diverse pipeline of talent is vital to our future success. The benefits of having a proactive and collective approach to the skills shortage are clear and we remain committed to working collaboratively across the sector to ensure a skilled and sustainable workforce for 2020 and beyond.”

As a major supplier to the sector, Siemens’ involvement and success has also been welcome. Its Sales Director (Market Verticals), David Brend, said: “Siemens is fully committed to the Skills Accord principles and is pleased to be accredited to the partnership once again. Its work is vital to promote rewarding careers by investing in training and development in the energy industry. Investing in people is vital if the sector is to recruit the best talent and close the skills gap.”

Graeme Crossley MCIPS, Head of Procurement and Supply Chain at Skanska, said: “Skanska has fully embraced the commitments of the Procurement Skills Accord as it aligns to our core values. The skills shortage is a national problem; working together we can all contribute to the sustainability of skills in this vital sector.”

Tim Coles, Head of Commercial at Thames Water, added: “We are proud to be a lead partner on this important initiative and to drive investment in the skills that our sector needs most. We’re committed to tackling the skills gap through collaboration with our supply chain and through our procurement practices. Together we intend to ensure a future sustainable workforce.”

Andrew Pace, HR Director, UK Power Networks, said: “We’re incredibly proud to have been part of The Procurement Skills Accord since its inception. Training and development is a vital part of our organisation and the Skills Accord provides best practice in procurement practices and tackling the skills gap in the industry. We’re looking forward to continuously improving what we can do to drive investment in skills.”

The Accord steering group is inviting sector employers to consider signing up. Initial enquiries can be made via email. Read more about the Accord here and its proceeding to full roll-out here.

The energy and utilities sector combined accounts for the greatest share of the UK Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline (2017/18 – 2020/21). The combined share is 43% (£104.8bn), which is significantly greater than the next largest category – transport at £78.5bn, which is responsible for 29% of 2017/18 – 2020/21 Pipeline.


The 28 award-winning companies are Alpha Construction Ltd, Amey, Andrew Hughes Utility Services, Avidety, Balfour Beatty, Dunphy Combustion, E.ON, Gallagher, Industrial Blower Services, Instalcom Ltd, Kier/McNicholas, Laing O’Rourke, Lewis Civil Engineering Ltd, M A Utilities, Morgan Sindall, National Grid, Northern Gas Networks, Northern Powergrid, O’Connor Utilities Ltd, RJ McLeod (Contractors) Ltd, Schneider Electric, Siemens Energy, Skanska, SSE, Stantec Treatment, Thames Water Utilities Ltd, UK Power Networks and wood.

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