Working In The Energy & utilities Industry
An overview of the industry
The energy and utility sector covers the power, water and oil & gas markets. Within these markets, there are different functions – from building and maintaining equipment to buying power on the wholesale market for resale to customers, or from treating water to make it safe, to extracting and refining fossil fuels. The energy & utilities sector also includes the growing renewable energy sector.
While there are several large businesses operating in the energy & utilities sector (for example: BP, British Gas, Yorkshire Water), it is also a sector with a growing number of smaller businesses (SMEs).
There is a broad variety of roles available depending on the area of the energy & utilities sector which you are interested in. Many larger businesses will offer structured apprenticeship training programmes in specific disciplines, particularly in engineering. These apprenticeships will either be at advanced (Level 3) or higher/degree (Levels 4-6) levels.
Many roles in the oil & gas sector can entail international travel, although only a small percentage of them involve spending time ‘off-shore’ on an oil/gas rig. Across all organisations there are roles in core business functions (HR, marketing, finance, etc.) available too.
Skills & interests required
Across the energy & utilities sector, most positions outside of core business functions will entail:
- An ability to follow rigorous safety procedures
- Analytical and problem-solving of complex technical problems
- Solid grounding in an STEM subject
- Team working abilities
- The ability to explain complex technical concepts to non-experts
- A willingness to work in a flexible fashion, which can mean spending time overseas or offshore
- An interest in applying innovative technologies to increase production and efficiency in production
- Problem Solving
Typical Career Progression Routes for School Leavers
The larger energy & utilities sector employers run annual apprenticeship recruitment programmes spread across their different business functions – for instance commercial, science or engineering.
Depending on the level at which you join, you can expect an apprenticeship to last 3-4 years. During which you will split your time between gaining on-the-job experience in the office or on-site, and in an FE College or university (typically 1 day per week) completing the academic aspect of your training.
Once you complete the apprenticeship, you will have attained either an apprentice Certificate in a specific discipline, an HNC qualification and a BTEC (Level 3), or a bachelor’s degree (BSc or BEng) in engineering (Level 6).
Some employers will offer a series of short (3-6 month) rotations in different parts of each function as part of the apprenticeship, while others will invite you to specialise when you complete your initial application.
Tips for getting into the field
Speak to your careers advisor to discuss your interest in the energy & utilities sector.
If you are interested in an engineering/science-based position within energy & utilities, you may want to consider securing some work experience in an office-based position within the sector or in a smaller firm.
Types of jobs in Energy & utilities
Most apprenticeships in the energy & utilities sectors will offer starting salaries of between £10,000 and £16,000 per annum, with regular salary reviews which will allow you to increase your earnings as you progress through your apprenticeship.
Once you have finished your training, careers in the energy & utilities sector can pay significantly higher than graduate roles in other sectors. Oil & gas in particular is renowned as a high paying industry.
Qualification requirements & subjects to study
For an advanced apprenticeship (Level 3) you will typically require 5 GCSEs or national 5s, usually including maths and a STEM subject.
For a higher/degree apprenticeship (Levels 4-6) you will typically need 3 A-Levels, grade A-C, including maths and a science or engineering subject or a minimum of three NDT Level 2 methods.