Labour shortage a leading concern for engineering construction in Wales, notes ECITB CEO

Andrew Hockey, ECITB CEO

Andrew Hockey, ECITB CEO

Meet the CEO: Andrew Hockey, Engineering Construction Industry Training Board. 

In our “Meet the CEO” series, we shine a spotlight on the accomplished leaders shaping the landscape of various industries. In this exclusive interview, we have the privilege of introducing you to Andrew Hockey, the distinguished CEO of the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB). Join us as we delve into Andrew’s illustrious career, his strategic insights into the engineering and construction sector, and the pivotal role he plays in advancing workforce development within this dynamic field. 


Tell us a little about yourself.  

Andrew has more than four decades of experience in the energy sector, latterly having held numerous directorships and CEO roles. Until the end of 2021 he was a Non-Executive Director at UK oil and gas company, Fairfield Energy, which he co-founded in 2005 and helped to transition to a decommissioning company in 2016. Most recently he was CEO at IOG plc, a low carbon footprint gas developer and operator in the UK Southern North Sea. 


Tell us about your company. 

The Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) is the industry-led skills body for the Engineering Construction Industry (ECI) in Great Britain. This industry consists contractors and supply chain companies that design, build, maintain and decommission industrial plant and machinery spanning the energy, food and drink, water, steel and other industrial sectors. 

A non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Education, the ECITB works with employers and government to attract, develop and qualify personnel across a wide range of craft, technical and managerial disciplines. 

Since 2020, the ECITB has invested £48 million on training within the engineering construction industry, including support for around 4,000 new entrants. 


How would you characterise 2023 in your sector so far? 

The engineering construction industry (ECI) in Wales is looking very buoyant with a significant amount of infrastructure projects forecast. The ECITB is delivering its ‘Leading Industry Learning’ strategic objectives improving its qualification provision, building workforce capacity and collaborating with partners including employers, the Welsh Government, further education providers, the Department for Work and Pensions and HM Prison and Probation Service. 


What are the key opportunities you are gearing towards as a company?  

The ECITB invests approximately £25-30m each year in training and skills programmes. There are many opportunities for the ECITB to support its registered companies in Wales to train and develop their workforce. This includes activity within onshore wind, floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea, marine energy and industrial decarbonisation. 

The ECITB is developing new entrant pipelines through strategic partnerships and facilitating collaborative working practices. We are working with the Welsh Government to support policy implementation and implementing workforce baseline technical competence through our Connected Competence initiative to support safety and productivity. 


What are your biggest challenges?  

One of the biggest challenges we face in Wales is attracting enough workers to the industry. The ECI has an ageing demographic with predominantly white male workers. Unemployment in Wales is around 5% which presents a challenge in creating a younger, more diverse workforce to the industry. Other sectors including civil construction, aerospace and automotive are also experiencing skills shortages which makes the problem more acute. 

Ensuring we have a robust training provider network that can deliver the right qualifications at the right time and in the right place in Wales will be key to developing a workforce that is capable of meeting project demands. Inward investment to Wales will be dependent on the availability of local skilled labour, so it is critical to the Welsh economy that we deliver those skills. 

Preparation for Net Zero is well underway in Wales and the ECITB is supporting the Welsh Government and the South Wales Industrial Cluster with their plans for industrial decarbonisation. There is more work to be done in raising awareness of Net Zero among companies and what it could mean for them. Companies that have defined plans for decarbonisation are increasingly being favoured as part of contract procurement processes which will result in a loss of business for those that do not take steps to tackle their carbon footprint. 


How would you analyse the economic conditions that are influencing those challenges?  

The cost of living is impacting the industry as many workers look to maximise their salaries and, in some instances, seek higher-paid employment outside of Wales. This is inflating costs further as organisations fight to secure the labour needed to complete projects on time. 

Another issue relates to the difficulties that FE colleges are facing in retaining work-based tutors and lecturers. Industry salaries tend to be significantly higher than those paid by further education, so many colleges have vacancies. This impacts learning provision. 


What projects or developments are you most proud of?  

The ECITB has created a new entrant programme in Wales called Work Ready which is focused on bringing unemployed people into the industry. Work Ready delivers semi-skilled individuals to the ECI within 16 weeks through a collaborative and co-funded training model with the DWP. The successful pilot in Pembrokeshire achieved a 90% programme completion rate with 90% of learners offered employment. 

In addition, the ECITB’s scholarship programme which was first launched in 2020 in response to the Covid pandemic, has proven to be very successful in Wales. The purpose of the scholarship is to provide a sustainable pipeline of new talent for industry by providing a grounding in the industrial knowledge and skills that are in demand. The programme aims to accelerate learners into apprenticeships or other forms of employment by providing them with training against some of the necessary components of an apprenticeship, off the job in an approved centre. 

To date over 78% of the scholars in Wales have secured employment in the engineering construction industry. In September another 14 Scholars will start their learning journey at Pembrokeshire College. 


What are your goals for the future?  

The ECITB will continue to work with its partners in Wales to drive delivery of our industry-led 3-year strategy. We are already planning a second cohort of Work Ready learners in Pembrokeshire and are in early-stage discussions around rolling out the programme to other parts of Wales. 

Recruitment is underway for the third group of scholars in Wales which will start college in September. We are working on the reinstatement of the full suite of ECITB industry standard qualifications and developing the training provider network so that our employers are able to access quality training where and when they need it. 


What would be your advice for budding entrepreneurs?  

A Net Zero economy will need to be built – it won’t just happen. And it will be engineering construction companies that will help build it. 

There are a myriad of opportunities available for young people starting out and adults looking to change careers. I want to see new entrants to the sector take advantage of the training and skills opportunities on offer – whether that is in graduate engineering roles, the craft trades like welding, project managers, data analysts or commercial roles – there are entry-level and advanced-level opportunities for everyone whatever their background or career trajectory. So, my advice is, if this sounds like an opportunity for you, head over to the ECITB website to find out more. 

Stay tuned for more insights from CEO’s across Wales.