A leading energy firm has voiced concern about the number of students planning a career in the industry after new research showed that most youngsters were looking elsewhere for jobs.
Centrica warned of an impending skills shortage among workers as policy-makers concentrated on infrastructure and investment to build new power plants and keep the lights on in the next decade.
A survey of 4,000 A-level and undergraduate students and parents, commissioned by Centrica, showed that although most young people believed that moving to a low-carbon future was important, just over half were not considering a career in science, technology or energy.
“The Government plans for 400,000 jobs to be created in UK green industries by 2015. Yet, unless we convince young people of the exciting and rewarding careers available in energy today, the UK will lack the skills to take advantage of the green agenda,” said Centrica chief executive Sam Laidlaw.
“Climate change will affect all our lives. Ensuring we have the expertise and skills needed to meet the challenges it brings is the responsibility of the industry, the education sector and parents.
“Working together, we must act urgently to address this impending skills gap as we seek to lead the transition to a low-carbon future.”
One in four parents said they would actively not recommend a career in science, technology or energy to their children, often because they thought the jobs were not suitable for women, or because they had no information about the type of work on offer.
Science, engineering and technology jobs were considered less attractive than more “glamorous” entertainment or media jobs.
Meanwhile, an industry leader today criticised the “excessive focus” on academia, saying the UK was creating a graduate “underclass”.
Diane Johnson, president of the Electrical Contractors’ Association, warned of a “lost generation” as an increasing number of students chased university places while others were left disappointed and she said many graduates will fail to get a job because of the shortage of work.
“For too long now gaining a degree has been pushed as the preferred, or default, educational option. I believe this blinkered approach devalues the alternatives, such as vocational training and the apprenticeship route. It is incredibly short-sighted.”