Last week I wrote about my thoughts on innovation and how the pipeline industries can change to survive. To change and survive, however, requires one thing more than any other – inspiring the next generation to become the engineers and scientists we so desperately need.
Ensuring this is one of my overriding ambitions.
As Cadent Chief Executive, I am determined that we will rise to the challenge of that ambition. To meet the Net Zero challenge and do our bit to build a low carbon future, we need to make sure we are reaching the best and the brightest – no matter what their gender, race or background.
To me, and to Cadent, it doesn’t matter where you come from – what matters is that you are willing to learn and are committed to the rewarding career that working in the pipeline industries can bring.
Let’s not kid ourselves, though. Our industry has a long way to go to get to that point. There is still a major gender gap at all points of entry, whilst our workforces don’t really reflect the communities in which we work in.
We all have to ask ourselves why, because I know we are missing out on potential future engineers who can make a difference to our industry. We cannot afford to keep missing out on great people.
At Cadent we’re working to overcome this challenge. We’re exploring new ways to recruit – offering specialised pathways into our industry at GCSE, A level, graduate level and for those who have left the armed forces – but changing a culture of recruitment takes time.
Changing our culture of recruitment also requires a renewed partnership between our industry and Government. We need to work better together to ensure key STEM skills are not just taught – but taught well – in schools and colleges across the country. And that we are teaching the next generation the skills that they will need when they enter the world of work, not the skills needed for the jobs of yesterday.
This has to be a real partnership, though. We can’t fall back into the old ways of sending a couple of our engineers to a science day at their local school once a year, then considering our work done. But equally, we can’t stand by and not speak up if the education system isn’t delivering people with the right skills and talents to make a difference in our industry.
I believe that, to ensure that the next generation of pipeline engineers are properly equipped with those skills, we need to reflect closely on what the next generation of pipeline engineers will actually be doing.
My vision for the future of our industry is a high tech and diverse one where our engineers come from a range of backgrounds. We are committed to helping the industry to build great quality engineers that can help our company to and support the skills of the future. Part of that is to support young people coming in to the industry via apprenticeships.
We have an Education and Skills strategy that focusses on good quality conversations with students in schools. As part of this we have also partnered with two all-girls schools to support our aspirations for a broader workforce. We are taking steps forward. But I am determined to do more.
I concluded my speech two weeks ago with a message of hope. I want you to take away the same message of hope. Yes, we have challenges. But every day I meet talented, passionate and brilliant people who have the ability to make our industry the best it can be.
I was honoured last year to be appointed Chief Executive of the largest gas distribution network in the UK. It’s a massive challenge, but it is also a massive privilege.
I am going to do everything I can in my new role to support our industry as we face new challenges. But I’m also going to do everything I can ensure the pipeline industries remain the best industries in the world to work. I hope partners from across our industry will work with me to help us achieve that goal.