Delivering the transition to a net zero economy has consequences for homes and businesses, for thousands of British workers, and for the communities in which we live.
If we are to achieve a just transition, one pertinent challenge is recruiting, retaining and retraining the workforce of the future, which will enable new green industries to flourish and generate value for generations to come.
At Centrica, our purpose is to help our customers live simply, sustainably and affordably. Achieving this is only possible if we put people at the centre of our net zero plan.
That’s why we’ve introduced a £50m support package for our customers to support them through the cost-of-living crisis, including for vulnerable households and front-line charities.
And our trusted brands such as British Gas, Centrica Business Solutions, Bord Gáis, Hive, Local Heroes, PH Jones and Dyno deliver innovative solutions to help solve customers’ needs, and make their lives simpler and more affordable.
We’re also committed to making big changes to create a cleaner and greener future, by cutting both customers’ and our own emissions. We have been helping businesses and the public sector decarbonise, and are expanding to 650 megawatts of solar farms by 2026, which will help us achieve net zero by 2045 and help our customers do so by 2050. This is also why we are investing in low-carbon solutions by scaling up our heat-pump, solar and demand-side response technologies and investing in hydrogen.
To ensure we have the skills for a decarbonised future we are continually upskilling our engineering workforce at our academies, and have committed to hiring one new apprentice every day until 2030.
Apprenticeships offer the opportunity to earn and learn
Centrica’s People & Planet Plan focuses on areas that are most important to the company and where it can make the most difference. Two of its priorities are recruiting 3,500 apprentices by 2030 and providing career development opportunities to people from under-represented groups.
Our apprenticeship programme allows Centrica to reach a diverse workforce, working with those who want a career change or who were displaced due to Covid-19. We offer a wide range of apprenticeships across our businesses including smart metering engineering, digital and technology, customer service, project management, and business analysis, to name a few.
Apprenticeships are aimed at all ages and backgrounds, with the ambition that 50 per cent of participants are women. To help boost interest from female applicants, the company has launched a targeted recruitment campaign and has also signed up to the Tech She Can Charter, a commitment by organisations to increase the number of women in technology roles. The company has taken on 1,000 apprentices in the past year, a third of whom were female.
Building a net zero battalion
Centrica has also set out plans to recruit 500 former Armed Forces personnel into roles with British Gas and the wider group by 2023, to facilitate the transition to net zero.
The first intake of 12 ex-service trainee gas engineers included Alex Smith from Wolverhampton, a former sniper with the 2nd Rifles. Smith began his 42-week training course with Centrica after being medically discharged in 2013 following tours of Afghanistan. Having faced adversity, he views the programme as a route back to normality.
“I have always wanted a trade and this offer was amazing,” he says. “It’s a skill to be proud of, which will give me stability in my working life to provide for my family, and it opens up a lot of routes for progression into green energy.”
Upskilling the UK
The demand for skilled workers is greater now than ever before, so it is crucial that we help people achieve their potential. This is a vital pillar of the levelling-up agenda and vital in boosting social mobility across the UK.
Since 2003, British Gas has trained around 7,000 apprentices across our four academies in Dartford, Hamilton, Leicester and Thatcham.
The training academies deliver approximately 100,000 training days each year, which includes teaching engineering apprentices how to install smart meters, alongside upskilling our existing engineering workforce on areas such as boiler servicing and repair.
Working with our trade unions
Centrica’s chief executive, Chris O’Shea and the GMB union’s general secretary, Gary Smith, are co-chairing a skills group focused on creating a skilled workforce that will ensure Britain is a global leader in both the green transition and energy resilience.
The group will build on the work of government-led initiatives such as the Green Jobs Taskforce, and produce two reports. The first will examine how we can create careers for the future as the UK accelerates plans for energy independence in a more geopolitically challenging environment. The second will explore how we ensure there is a just transition for the UK’s existing high-carbon workforce.
The programme will look at how we create domestic and international competitive advantage from home energy efficiency, nuclear, hydrogen, electric vehicles, and clean heavy industry, and how existing oil and gas infrastructure can be repurposed for the future. It will also consider how we ensure that high-skilled, low-carbon jobs are based in the UK, creating a major export revenue stream.
As the nation advances on the exciting road to net zero, we’re proud to be playing our part as a purpose-led company that believes in a just transition that doesn’t leave anyone behind.