Skills shortages in Scotland's energy sector.
Scottish Power have warned of skills shortages facing Scotland's energy sector. They have estimated that 80% of its engineers are due to retire in the next 20 years.
According to Scottish Power, in order to fill the skills gaps and shortages the sector needs to attract more engineers or it will be unable to support future developments in the energy sector, especially in renewables.
In Scotland, women are substantially underrepresented on engineering courses; only 14% of engineering graduates are women and less than 2% of engineering modern apprentices are women (Close the Gap, 2010).
In employment, 81% of the engineering workforce are men and of the low percentage of women, 70% are concentrated in administration and sales (Close the Gap, 2010).
Why are there so few women in engineering?
Historically, this has been a male-dominated occupation, and still is. The exception is during periods of male labour shortages. For example, during World War II many women trained and worked as engineers only to be pushed back into the home when the men returned from war.
Women account for 47% of the workforce, but they are concentrated in certain occupations. This is due to the gender stereotyping of women and men's roles and as a consequence the undervaluing of 'women's work'.
Consequently women are still more likely to be the main carer in their family and therefore looking for part-time/flexible work to balance responsibilities. The majority of part-time jobs are concentrated in administration and caring related occupations, areas which are undervalued and lower paid.
How can we ensure there is a critical mass of female engineers?
Scottish Power suggests that school pupils should be encouraged to study science and maths, and many pupils do. Crucially, these interventions need to actively encourage girls and young women to pursue science and engineering which will help challenge gender stereotyping at an early age.
Employers, sector representative bodies and schools have a role to play in ensuring there is an understanding of the subjects needed to become an engineer, the variety of engineering careers and the reality of an engineering workplace.
More importantly, employers need to tackle the barriers which prevent women entering and remaining in the sector i.e. lack of flexible working, and ensure there are transparent career progression routes. Otherwise the energy sector will continue to draw on only half the potential workforce.