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Employment & Skills
27 Feb 2024 3 minute read

General Election 2024: Why a shortage of electrical apprentices matters

Jane Dawson

Head of Communications & Public Affairs

General Election 2024: Why a shortage of electrical apprentices matters

Last year we asked our Members what their top business concerns were. The overwhelming response came back; the shortage of suitably qualified electricians was holding back business growth. 

Low apprentice recruitment rates are storing up problems for the future. Just as a rapid expansion in electrification was presenting more opportunities. This a threat to our industry. It is also a threat to the country, as we urgently need to bring on-stream cheaper, home-grown energy. 

It's all about the economy 

It won’t have escaped your notice we are in the middle of an election campaign. A date has not been announced. But there is no doubt the politicians are in campaigning mode. Despite headlines about all manner of issues, this election, like most elections, will be fought on the economy. It all boils down to whether you feel better, or worse off. 

Energy costs are a high proportion of domestic and business outgoings. This makes them an election battleground. While every politician wants a magic bullet to bring down energy prices, approaches differ. The greater the division between the parties, the higher up the media agenda it will rise. In turn, this will demand more scrutiny of the facts and figures. 

High energy costs

Upfront costs for installing low carbon technologies put off consumers, despite long term savings. Assumptions about the energy needs of a building or the right kit to install result inappropriate incentives. Often these don’t lead to cost or carbon savings. The result is some politicians fall back on solutions such as home-grown oil or gas to bring down energy costs. These ignore taxpayer subsidies offered as sweeteners, such as the £3.75bn offered to the developer of the Rosebank Oil field. 

Consumers continue to feel the pain of high energy prices. Global events are only part of the picture. Reducing fuel bills is tackled piecemeal or left to industry to resolve. Structural issues, which only governments can address, would mitigate rising bills. The Government could overhaul the energy taxation system to reflect cheaper, cleaner electricity. And address EPC ratings which give only partial data about a building’s energy efficiency. Neither issue is politically ‘sexy’, so they languish in the bottom of Department in-trays. 

Qualified electricians can reduce energy bills

Circling back to the concerns of ECA Members. Why should the shortage of electrical apprentices matter to the voter, and therefore the politician on the campaign trail? Without enough electricians to advise on cost savings, energy bills will go on rising.

What’s more, electricians can bring down bills further by smart integration of devices. For example; using cheaper electricity at off-peak times, feeding electricity back to the grid, and maximising energy efficiency. These integrated cost saving measures can only be carried out by an electrician who knows what they are doing. 

Gap in the electrical workforce

There is a hole in the size of the electrical workforce. If not addressed, it will affect everyone and prevent a reduction in energy costs. Joined-up solutions involving the industry, are the only way to supply the skills needed to electrify the country. 

At election time assumptions underlying the official numbers of ‘green’ jobs need scrutiny. According to electrical industry data we need 12,000 new electrical apprentice starts each year. This is a large, but achievable number. Far lower (and less expensive) than the official data suggests. 

Calling all politicians!

More electricians will lead to long term savings on energy bills for every business and consumer. With the practical solutions offered by the electrical industry, politicians might find that elusive magic bullet - a low-cost solution to reducing energy bills. It is a fundamental flaw not to listen to the industry that can deliver such a solution.

Organise a site visit

In normal times it can be hard to get a politician to listen to you, but not in an election year. Now is the ideal time to invite your MP (or candidates), to visit your business. Every campaigner loves a photo in a hard hat. Use the opportunity to invite politicians to your business. Show them how investing in apprentices, will bring down energy costs. 

If you are an ECA Member, contact me if you’d like help organising a visit from a politician. If you want to find out how ECA are influencing the policy landscape, you can read more here

Jane Dawson

Jane Dawson

Head of Communications & Public Affairs