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Today’s apprentices will deliver Net Zero

01 Mar 2021

To mark the start of this year's Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2021 our Director of Operations, Jerry Williamson outlines the value that apprenticeships can bring to individuals, to SSE Renewables as an employer, and to delivering Net Zero.

There’s never been a more important time to show support for apprentices. If we’ve learned anything from the last year it is not to take anything or anyone for granted; so, this week gives us the opportunity to put the spotlight on a group of people who I am passionate about.

At SSE Renewables, our apprenticeship programme has its roots in the nationalised business we grew from. Indeed, there are many people across all levels of the business who started out as apprentices more than 30 or 40 years ago and are still going strong.

Our apprenticeships are an important part of how we sustain and grow the business and with the growth of the renewable energy sector, investing in the right talent is integral to our success.

Traditionally, the energy industry was very male-dominated but the renewables industry is much more diverse, and the new generation of recruits that are joining our business represent that diversity, which is a good thing for us and for society as a whole.

What I am perhaps most proud of is that our apprenticeships are for everyone. Our recruitment process is now based on values rather than exam grades. We're looking at engaged and motivated people who share our values and are passionate about working in the green energy industry.

These apprentice recruits have the competence and ability to learn, regardless of social background or academic record. And we know that this approach works – with a loss rate in apprentices of less than 10%. This level of retention is very reassuring.

So why are so many of our apprentices so happy to work for SSE Renewables? Well, according to many of them, there’s a certain kudos associated with working in the renewable energy industry – telling people you work on wind farms is definitely a conversation starter!

Also, I believe it is to do with the standard of training and the multi-skill approach that we offer at SSE Renewables. Take the role of a wind turbine technician for example. If you're working in a wind turbine, in the middle of North Sea, you have to be able to deal with everything that’s in front of you – from basic mechanics through to the very smart, automated technology that comes in these machines.

As well as the technical knowledge and skills, we keep our apprentices engaged by equipping them with a high level of responsibility for safety. We are proud of our safety standards at SSE Renewables, many of which we've helped develop with industry groups. From everyone’s very first day on the job, we drive home the importance of doing everything safely or not at all. Safety is in our DNA. So, you can imagine if you're a new apprentice working in a very small team, in a remote location, you know that you can rely on your colleagues to have your safety at heart. And they expect the same of you, for yourself and your team.

The theme of Scottish Apprenticeship Week this year is 'Business Backing Talent' and there is no doubt that at SSE Renewables, we do just that. It’s in our DNA to do so. Because it’s our talented people who drive the success of our business, and the goals we are seeking to achieve.

This year more than ever we are so proud of the resilience and hard work of our workforce at large, including our apprentices. In the year when we will welcome COP26, of which we are a principal partner, to Glasgow I believe there’s no better time to be part of an organisation which is for Scotland, for Net Zero and for the green jobs that will deliver our climate action goals. And there’s no better time to nurture the talents and values of this and the next generation of apprentices – because it is today’s apprentices who will deliver us along the road to Net Zero.