The latest research on the requirements of the solar PV workforce concludes that to fulfil the government’s plans for 70GW of solar capacity by 2035, there may be a need for up to 500 newly qualified electricians annually.
With the UK standing at a current solar capacity of around 15GW, the research was commissioned by The Electrotechnical Skills Partnership (TESP) and funded by NET to explore the electrotechnical industry’s capability to fulfil this growth and the projected resources needed. Research expert Pye Tait carried out wide-ranging investigations, extending from interviews with electrical contractors to in-depth analysis, including examining the duration of the average solar PV installation and the level of maintenance required.
It is estimated that from now until 2035, a total workforce of between 6,110 and 6,890 full-time equivalent qualified electricians (FTE) will be required to assist in the growth of solar installations. This represents 4,800 to 5,600 more than the current FTE requirement for solar PV, or an extra 438 to 509 FTE electricians qualifying each year.
Despite the challenges, the electrotechnical industry is well-positioned to address the demand. The report estimates that the current population of electricians and electrical fitters in the UK is 210,000 (excluding apprentices). Last year saw approximately 4,000 apprentices become qualified electricians, whilst apprentice enrolment figures in the UK have been significantly higher than average in the past two years. The report by Pye Tait acknowledged that ongoing improvements to solar PV technology could result in reduced requirements for PV units and, therefore, a reduction in the number of electricians needed.
Electrical apprenticeship standards incorporating solar PV knowledge and skills means that new apprentices are now becoming exposed to solar PV and other low carbon technologies at a much earlier stage. For the existing workforce, TESP launched the ‘Electrician Plus’ concept earlier this year. The concept highlights how public safety, alongside solar PV and other low carbon installations, should be exclusively undertaken by qualified electricians who have upskilled in the relevant technologies.
With their broad foundation of occupational competence, electricians are well-placed to provide the flexibility and responsiveness needed to adapt to changing technologies and variable work pipelines.
“Whilst the initial projections seem within our reach, it’s important to highlight the expanding need for electricians elsewhere across the industry to meet future needs,” says TESP Chair, Ruth Devine. “The impact of growth areas such as smart homes, electrification of heat, electric vehicle charging points and battery storage systems, to name just a few, means we need a constant and increasing supply of qualified and qualifying electricians.”
The latest research expands upon a study commissioned by TESP last year, which identified that the electrical vehicle charging point installation demand (with the high-end estimate at circa 5000 electricians by 2030) can be readily accommodated by the industry.
TESP is currently working on numerous projects and initiatives to support employers and electricians to upskill. These include engaging with Local Skills Improvement Plans and devolved authorities to secure funding and prioritise upskilling in key technologies for qualified electricians. In addition to looking at alternative training routes such as full-time courses, T-Levels and NVQs.