Electricity sector training needs agreed

Training and competencies are to become a focus for the social partners of the European electricity sector. In March 2013 they adopted a joint framework intended to anticipate the changes necessary to ease Europe’s transition towards a low-carbon economy. These include making the sector attractive to young people, and equality mainstreaming to guarantee consistent recognition of qualifications throughout the industry, fair access to training and age diversity.

On 15 March 2013, the EU-level social partners in the electricity sector – Eurelectric for employers, the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU), and IndustriAll Europe for the trade unions – adopted a joint framework of actions, Competences, qualifications and anticipation of change in the European electricity sector (2.52MB PDF).

In it, the social partners state that the electricity sector in Europe is at an ‘unprecedented crossroads’, as it faces a number of key obstacles to meeting the EU’s energy and climate objectives in the medium and longer term. In particular, the transition to a low-carbon economy will have a significant impact on current and future skills and employment needs in the sector. The social partners state that they

…strongly believe that social dialogue at company, national and European level has a key role to play to anticipate those changes and allow for a smooth transition of [the] sector.

The joint framework states that over the coming three years, a number of issues will take priority over others and that these should be addressed in discussions at national and/or company level, as appropriate.

Anticipation of change

The signatory parties to the framework of actions stress that anticipation of change in the electricity sector is one of the most important future issues for both employers and trade unions. This is particularly significant in the context of mitigating emissions and adapting to global warming and climate change.

The parties therefore make a commitment to discuss the impact of the transition towards a low-carbon economy on not only the electricity sector as a whole, but also on the individual companies that operate within it and the jobs that they provide. Following the discussions, a report will be made to the European Electricity Social Dialogue Committee suggesting potential follow-up actions, with a particular emphasis on training at company and national level.

Mainstreaming of equality

The social partners give a commitment that their members will discuss how to evaluate training and recruitment processes to ensure equal access and recognition of qualifications. A report on these discussions and recommendations for possible action will be sent to the social dialogue committee. Guiding principles for these discussions can be found in the equality toolkit (410.6KB PDF), which was developed by the social partners in 2007.

Young workers

A key focus for the future of the electricity sector is to ensure that it is attractive to young workers. The social partners made a commitment in June 2003, in a joint statement on lifelong learning, to increase the number of apprenticeships available in the sector’s companies, leading to full-time and open-ended employment contracts (EU0407201N).

The social partners are committed to retraining older workers and promoting age diversity. These issues are addressed in the toolkit promoting age diversity and age management strategies (657.34KB PDF).

The social partners state that it is also crucial to ensure that workers have the right skills and can take on jobs that match their qualifications, and that training standards and certificates are mutually recognised. They note that the European Commission is addressing this issue.

The joint statement supports the European Commission’s Youth Guarantee (EU1212011I), and the social partners will work towards increasing the number of young people in training in the sector. They also commit themselves to exploring the introduction of an electricity sector youth initiative by 2020, including offering young people a period of study or training, including work placements abroad.

The parties also make a commitment to discuss the 10-step plan contained in their joint toolkit on age diversity and age management, and the retraining of older workers at national, sectoral or company level, as appropriate. They will report back to the European Electricity Social Dialogue Committee on these discussions and any related actions.

Commentary

This framework is an important sectoral joint text, as it is the outcome of a well-functioning social dialogue between the social partners in the electricity sector. Anticipating the changes to come in this sector is clearly extremely important to secure the future of the sector and its workforce.

Equipping all workers with the skills to respond to the changing environment in which the electricity sector operates is key to ensuring the future job security of the sector’s workers.

Attracting young people to the sector and ensuring that they have the right kind of experience is also crucial, as is ensuring a properly diverse workforce, including the continuing employment of older workers.

The signatory parties are keen to ensure that this joint text has an impact that will lead to concrete changes, and therefore they have built in a follow-up mechanism. After six months, all of the signatory parties’ member organisations will report back to their secretariats on progress made in holding discussions in the key areas. An annual report on the progress made will be drawn up and, after three years, the signatory parties will evaluate the text for a ‘general assessment and appropriate review and follow-up’.

Andrea Broughton, Institute for Employment Studies

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