Mapping the Skills for the UK Hydrogen Economy: X-Academy secondment experience

Kessington 1
Kessington Onalo

To ensure our xccelerators have the correct skills to thrive in this environment, we partner with some of the industry's most prominent organisations to provide them with an understanding of the challenges the sector is facing today. Kessington Onalo, AMEI recently completed a secondment with ECITB, an organisation which will be instrumental in upskilling the future workforce for the energy transition. Read the full story of how Kessington found his secondment experience and the crucial learnings which he has taken from it.

Without a doubt, the energy transition is happening. As countries like the UK continue to develop strategies to meet net zero targets, it is essential that the workforce has the correct skills to take advantage of the job opportunities created by the pipeline of new projects and decarbonisation initiatives. After I completed an MSc Energy Management degree from Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, I came across an exciting opportunity with X-Academy, an energy transition skills programme aimed at developing individuals with the professional and technical skills to thrive in a career in energy transition. Having worked in the oil and gas industry, I took this opportunity to not only utilise the knowledge and skills I gained in my previous experience but also acquire useful skills for innovative technologies and strategies that underpin the drive to net zero.

Joining the first cohort of Xccelerators in January 2022, I have worked on several projects which has helped me gain an understanding of how the energy industry is developing and evolving. The most recent being a 6-month secondment with the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) which was concluded in December 2022. This role was a remote working opportunity and required me to support the Net Zero Project Manager on implementing actions to drive the delivery of ECITB’s strategic net zero goals.

Part of my responsibility was to conduct research and maintain a live record of skills required by the engineering construction industry (ECI) workforce for net zero and energy transition projects. This also involved building on existing work to map the relevant skills, knowledge, and behaviour for ECI roles and project lifecycle to participate fully in the opportunities of energy transition.

A major achievement from the secondment was the opportunity I had to develop a hydrogen skills map, working with Debnath Pal from innovation consultancy, Stopford, the map helps to visualise the skills needed across the hydrogen value chain and on a project lifecycle basis to build the UK hydrogen workforce of the future. This task was initiated in response to the publication of the Hydrogen Sector Development Action Plan by the UK government in July 2022 which referenced “the work of the ECITB as pivotal in driving forward collaboration with employers, training providers and government to ensure the engineering construction workforce has the technical skills to deliver on our commitments to decarbonise existing industry and build new hydrogen facilities, in addition to building workforce capacity in other low carbon technologies.”

Similarly, another significant achievement was creating the ECITB Hydrogen Skills Analysis industry working group which had representative members from organisations across the UK industrial clusters. A follow-on activity saw the working group hold its inaugural workshop event in Aberdeen on the 14th December 2022, which was chaired by Jenny Young, ECITB Deputy Director, Strategy & Policy. The roundtable discussion had key industry stakeholders across the hydrogen value chain in attendance, providing valuable insight on the work their organisation is currently undertaking (or plans to undertake) with the aim of identifying the skills gap/shortage and explore intervention measures to close the gap including the possibility of developing an ECI sector hydrogen training standard.

In attendance were representatives from bp, CatchUK, ECITB, Hydrasun, Phillips66, Stopford, and Xodus. Whilst this skills analysis exercise is ongoing and more details will follow, I am happy to have contributed to drafting the initial framework and I believe the ECITB will continue to drive the strategy for a clear roadmap to support the industry to address potential training needs and skills requirements for the low carbon economy.

On a self-development front, the secondment opportunity helped me improve soft skills including stakeholder engagement and communication, organisational skills, and research & analytic skills. I have also gained valuable connection with industry wide employers. Another high moment was the opportunity to share insights and my personal journey alongside other panellist at the Gradweek 2022 webinar event hosted by an organisation called CareerMap. The Q&A interactive session featured sharing my experience and top career tips in helping to provide direction and inspiration for the 560 graduates in attendance.

Carol Sinclair, ECITB Net Zero project manager said: “Kess’ work with the ECITB helped lay the foundations for our net zero project activities in 2023. His technical insights and enthusiasm for supporting skills development to meet the net zero challenge are shaping our hydrogen skills mapping and podcast series work. It was a pleasure to work with Kess and for ECITB to be part of his Xccelerator journey with the X Academy.”

Link to the webinar https://careermap.co.uk/video/ecitb-green-careers-engineering-net-zero-national-graduate-week/

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