By Chris Train
When it comes to explaining what Cadent does, it is easy to start with a high-level answer to say we ensure gas reaches 11 million customers, safely and reliably.
It is not as easy to explain – unless you have several hours spare – the wide variety of work that goes into making that happen.
What can go unseen is that, on a daily basis, as well as keeping our assets in good working order, our highly competent field force is at the forefront of enabling growth and positive change for UK plc, at both national and regional level.
Take for example the Thames Tideway project. We know this as the £4.2bn project in the heart of London, which includes building a 25km long tunnel and sewage offtake sites along the River Thames.
On the face of it, a water and sewage project – but Cadent is also helping to make it happen.
We have so far diverted over 300 metres of some of the largest diameter pipes we have in London (30in and 36in), at six sites, and in prominent locations (such as Chelsea and Victoria Embankments), to move them away from the route of the new tunnel and offtakes.
We do such an extraordinary and varied mix of work, which means we need an extraordinary and varied team, with the skills and capability to deliver.
These are exciting times as we build our future as energy networks, and central to that is meeting a very real skills challenge. We are not just a gas business needing gas engineers – we also need engineers with mechanical, electrical and civil engineering expertise.
The Energy and Utilities ‘Workforce Renewal and Skills Strategy: 2020’ told us we will need 221,000 new recruits in the energy and utility sector during the next ten years. Numbers on that scale need a coordinated approach, which is why I am delighted to be part of the Energy and Utilities Skills CEO Partnership Board. This is the industry collaborating to make sure we face this challenge head on, so that we can attract the best talent.
At Cadent, we recently developed a new education and skills strategy, which has at its heart a desire to inspire the emerging generation of engineers. We want to do more in applying STEM classroom learning into our work and offer opportunity for our engineers to connect with schools, and vice versa. It gives us focus to continue the learning from our association with this year’s fantastic ‘Year of Engineering’, having quality conversations and direct interactions with pupils.
And then, once they join, perhaps on apprenticeship, making sure we deliver on a promise to provide a great career. Whether that is someone’s first career, or a career change later in life. A stand-out achievement for Cadent this year was being ranked the top UK company for apprentices to work for.
What made this accolade from TheJobCrowd extra special was that it was based on independent and
anonymous ratings provided by existing apprentices.
I am passionate about the value of apprenticeships and Cadent’s Board has committed to recruit at least 50 every year (plus our other schemes, including graduates). So I am proud we are giving them an experience and start to their careers that they have judged to be first-rate. We need to ensure we maintain that drive and passion, in an ever-changing world, with many opportunities, and therefore lots of competition.
One way we are doing that at Cadent is to rethink and restructure our professional offer to our field force. Under our Head of Engineering, Hilary Buxton, we have a new forum which is looking at development needs and standards in engineering.
This forum has its eye firmly on our future needs – whether that be adapting to increased use of hydrogen in our network, or using drones and robotic technology to inspect, maintain and fix our 130,000km of pipeline.
And part of that is making sure we capture the knowledge of those who have invested a lifetime working in our sector. They have experienced change and new ways of doing things, but it all comes back to keeping people safe and warm in their homes, as well as powering industry and fuelling transport, in a sustainable way.
As an industry, we have a lot to offer both this new, emerging, talented generation, and the current teams already making a difference every day.
Let’s shout more about the vital role we are playing in enabling clean growth and keeping energy flowing. Let’s make it the Year of Engineering every year.