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National College for Wind Energy

The National College for Wind Energy (NCWE) was one of seven proposed employment led colleges announced by the Government in 2014. Funding would be provided in the form of capital grants and scholarship funding. However, in May 2016 funding was announced by the Government for only five of the seven proposed colleges. The NCWE was not awarded funding, reportedly this was due to the proposal not being sufficiently mature. However, there has been ongoing discussions on whether funding could be provided in the future.

Skills shortages in the wind energy sector

The wind energy industry is relatively new and has grown rapidly in recent years (employment in the whole sector grew by 30% between 2010 and 2013).[1]

The sector is heavily reliant on employees with science, technology, mathematics and engineering (STEM) skills. Although overall the UK does not have a shortage of STEM-skilled employees, there are some “acute shortages in specific occupational areas”, including engineering occupations which include many jobs in the wind sector.[2]

In the whole renewable energy sector in 2014, 37% of firms reported a number of “hard to fill vacancies”.[3]

In the wind energy sector specifically, a shortfall of 7,000 qualified personnel was reported in Europe in 2013. This figure could rise to 15,000 by 2030 if the number of STEM graduates entering the profession remains at the current rate.[4]

In a Europe-wide survey conducted in 2013, 78% of wind power sector companies reported that they found it difficult or very difficult to recruit suitably qualified staff.[5]

Companies in the wind power industry identified the following obstacles to securing suitably qualified professionals:[6]

  • Under-resourced education system
  • Too few suitably qualified technical institutions
  • Lack of R&D/research funding
  • Recruits obtaining skills not applicable to wind industry

Wind energy industry

In 2013, there were 520 businesses working in the wind energy industry, 300 involved with onshore wind energy and 220 involved with offshore wind energy.

These businesses employed 32,700 people, 58% of these people working in onshore wind energy.

The wind energy sector contributed £2.7 billion to the UK economy.

The onshore wind industry has more businesses and employees than the offshore wind energy industry. The economic contribution of the onshore industry is also greater than the economic contribution of the offshore industry.

Employment by region

Employment in the sector is unevenly distributed across Great Britain.

The region or country of the Great Britain with the most employees in the wind energy industry is Scotland. A quarter of wind energy employees are based in Scotland, 5,400 in onshore wind and 2,100 in offshore wind.

[1]     Department of Business Innovation and Skills report, Low-carbon economy: size and performance, March 2015

[2]     UK Commission for Employment and Skills, Reviewing the requirements for high level STEM shortages,

[3]     Wind Power, UK training college will address skills shortfall, January 2015

[4]     Wind Platform, Workers wanted: the EU wind energy sector skills gap, August 2013, p 12

[5]     Ibid, p 11

[6]     Ibid, p 14

[7]     These data are from the Department of Business Innovation and Skills report, Low-carbon economy: size and performance, March 2015. The data include businesses, employment and economic contribution of the wind energy sector and its supply chain.

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