Hydro Group chief executive Doug Whyte gives his opinion on the importance of celebrating young people in the energy sector.
Why do you think it’s important to invest in young people?
As clichéd as it sounds, young people are the future. I believe they need to learn from the generation before; people who have the knowledge and experience, individuals who are possibly near retirement and ready to pass their wisdom and skills on to the next workforce generation.
Why are apprentices important for your business?
Offering apprenticeships is something I have always advocated, and I have instilled throughout the company. They are crucial for business growth and are an essential platform for developing staff.
What does Hydro Group do to entice, train and retain young trainees/apprentices?
Someone who is really looking to learn never has to be enticed into an apprenticeship; we’re very fortunate at Hydro Group as we’ve always welcomed young, eager trainees – peaking one year with 10 apprentices spread across our Aberdeen facility.
Training is the essential platform for personal progression. We appreciate that the needs of our machine shop trainees are different from our IT trainees for example, and that is why it is imperative for us to offer individual training paths – each with their own specific end-career goal.
During the industry downturn, how did you motivate your apprentices?
Due to our diverse business streams we were fortunate enough not to have been massively affected by the downturn.
But we were aware of the negative environment resulting from the downturn, which unfortunately cultivated an attitude of fear. It was important that senior management kept staff informed with positive business developments and shared future growth plans, keeping each apprentice busy in a positive environment.
In your opinion, what are the advantages of carrying out an apprenticeship?
A lot of the time companies are looking to recruit individuals with experience, but if you can’t get the experience how do you get the job? It’s a little like the chicken and the egg, what comes first…
Through apprenticeships trainees can make a place for themselves in the industry. Each individual is given a clear training path with a clear element of learning and clear end goal – it is the ideal platform for gaining the desired industry experience.
What general advice would you give to a young trainee looking for a career in the energy industry?
Actively seek out apprenticeships and have an open mind. It is also important to note that these schemes and opportunities are not just for 16-18-year olds, apprenticeships can even begin after formal education – nothing can replace hands on experience and mentoring.
What do you see for the future of apprenticeships?
Firstly, I strongly believe the apprenticeship levy, introduced in 2015, is more of a hindrance than a help. Why doesn’t the government give companies financial support as opposed to taking money from them and negotiating how it will be spent?
A world-renowned engineering company, which offers first class apprenticeships, reportedly spends an additional £800,000 a year due to this levy – in my opinion this money could be put to much better use and could help foster our future generation.
I hope this doesn’t put companies off the idea of apprenticeships, and instead, they see the benefit of apprenticeship schemes and are encouraged to take on more trainees. The majority of these companies are seeing a number of their staff reach their career twilight years. This means there is an industry gap appearing which we need to fill with educated and qualified staff; apprenticeship schemes are a highly effective way to fill this gap.