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Apprentices - the future of the energy industry

Published: 5 January 2021 - Rachael Morling

No matter what industry you are in, it is important that you consider where the future of your team lies. Bringing new life into the industry is vital to grow and develop as a business. Finding and securing the right candidates for new job openings can be a very time consuming and often costly process. Apprenticeships have always been an excellent way of breathing new life into a team, but as a pipeline of new talent, it hasn’t always been as valued or invested in compared with graduate programmes.

In the energy sector, finding the right employee for a new role can be difficult. We operate in a complex industry and some roles require specific knowledge of the sector as well as the challenges that our customers face on a daily basis. Anyone starting their career in this sector will need time to understand the nuances of the industry. Apprenticeships have been particularly successful for this reason – they give new members of the team time to gain real understanding of the energy sector from the ground up. They are fully supported through their learning process and become valued members of the team with a much more rounded understanding of the industry in which they are operating. This is the value that an apprenticeship scheme can bring to an energy suppliers’ business.
 
Apprenticeships – the statistics
Between 2010 and 2019, over 4.2 million people in England between the ages of 16 and 44 took on new apprenticeships. Available to a wide range of ages and skill levels, apprenticeships offer opportunities that may not normally exist, and not just for younger demographics. In fact, according to 2018/19 Government statistics, while the highest proportion of starters were people aged 16 - 25 (24.46%), the largest increase was in those aged between 35 and 44. One of the advantages of apprenticeships as a career option is that they’re open to anyone. While most apprenticeships tend to be level 3 apprenticeships (equivalent to A level study) they are also available at levels equivalent to a degree qualification (level 6) which makes them an attractive proposition for any age of learner.
 
Energy industry – the apprenticeship opportunity
For anyone considering the apprenticeship route as a way of securing a new job, the energy sector offers an opportunity to work in an industry that is continually evolving to meet the changing needs of customers. Clean energy is becoming increasingly high on many of our customers’ agendas, so starting work in the energy sector right now will allow you to witness, and potentially even be involved in, the considerable change that will undoubtedly be made in the coming years. An apprenticeship in the energy sector also offers a well-rounded experience, so it’s an excellent way for individuals to explore different areas of expertise and test their skills in different areas before going on to pursue a particular area of focus, either inside or outside of the industry.
 
At Gazprom Energy we offer a general Business Administration Apprenticeship which gives our apprentices a great foundation across many different business areas and a real understanding of the different career paths that are available to them within the industry at the end of the two-year apprenticeship programme.
 
At Gazprom Energy we have taken on over 35 apprentices in the last 10 years and considering we had around 50 employees then and today have 280, it’s been a strong commitment from a SME business. Nearly all have gone on to be offered full time employment with us.
 
Katie Smith, one of our Corporate Accounts Relationship Managers, started her career at Gazprom Energy as an apprentice. Her journey is just one of many examples of the successes we have had as a business with the apprenticeship route.
 
Katie Smith’s story:
Like most people, at 18 years old I believed that university was the only route open to me after leaving school. I started a degree course and almost instantly regretted it, knowing that it wasn’t for me. I looked at what of my options were and came across an apprenticeship scheme at Gazprom Energy in Business and Administration. I knew the industry was very stable and that the apprenticeship scheme would provide me with a good general understanding of business, so I decided to apply and was offered the position.
 
It was a two-year apprenticeship and I got to experience a wide variety of different disciplines during that time, working across a range of teams and building my own internal stakeholder network. I mainly worked in roles that were supporting customers and actually got to talk to the customers direct during my apprenticeship. This is what I found I loved the most – being able to help solve customers’ challenges. I quickly developed my skills in this area and when I finished the apprenticeship, I knew I wanted to work in a team where I’d be directly involved with our customers. I moved into sales support and over a relatively short period, I progressed to SME Team Leader. I moved into the team supporting our corporate customers and have never looked back.
 
Apprenticeships for me were a route to carving out a fantastic career in an industry that is continually evolving. When I look at my peers outside of the energy sector, I can see that I’ve achieved just as much as they have, even without a university degree. An apprenticeship gives you the opportunity to learn as you are going and to ask questions about key aspects of the business, all while feeling completely supported.
 
The Future
Alison Bagnall, Managing Director of the Apprenticeship Academy, sees a bright future for apprenticeships as large businesses start to understand the positive impact they can have. “Apprenticeships really fill the knowledge, skills and behaviour gaps for many companies that traditionally may struggle to recruit at the ground level. The apprenticeship reforms have enabled businesses like Gazprom Energy to tackle these gaps throughout the whole workforce. The apprenticeship levy encourages larger organisations to invest back into the workforce and enhance skills across the board, not just with the apprentices.”
 
Gazprom Energy has used this levy to support people who joined as apprentices some years ago with further study. One such former apprentice is now coming to the end of his part-time degree studies In Apprentice Chartered Management – one of the first degrees of its kind.
 
The volatility of this year has certainly had an effect on the job market with more people than ever before looking for new employment, which means that it’s getting increasingly harder to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Apprenticeships are increasingly going to be viewed as a way of securing gainful employment within an established business, not just by school or college leavers but also by graduates and anyone looking to change direction in their careers. Because the energy industry offers such a broad range of roles across a wide variety of skillsets, it is a fantastic choice for anyone looking to forge a career in a growth sector. I would encourage any business leader to think seriously about apprenticeships as a fantastic opportunity to add real value to a team, no matter what industry they are in. For anyone who is considering what their next career step is going I would recommend considering apprenticeships as a route into a fruitful future.
 
 
Author: Grace Rothery, Head of UK Retail, Gazprom Energy


 
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