Navigating the UK labour market can be difficult for foreign owned companies, especially in key growth areas like offshore wind and renewable energy where skills can be in short supply. Our Senior Account Manager and Energy Sector Lead Angela Tait is responsible for supporting the North East’s strategic employers as they look to expand and support the transition to a low carbon economy. Here, she reflects on her first six months in the role.
In the six months since I started working as Invest Newcastle’s Senior Account Manager at NewcastleGateshead Initiative, it has been truly fascinating to connect with the North East’s strategic employers and learn about the challenges they are facing.
My role is part-funded by the Department for Business and Trade (DBT), which captures business intelligence and insights from regions across the UK to measure how we are attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) locally and nationally.
According to DBT, we are witnessing the biggest shake up in the FDI market for a generation following Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic and the return of war in Europe. In this context, managing key investor relations or key account management (KAM) has never been more important.
The North of Tyne (Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland) is home to some wonderful foreign owned companies, especially in the offshore, subsea and renewable energy sector, which I’ve been delighted to support both from an account management and inward investment perspective as Sector Lead.
What really strikes me about this sector is the scale of ambition for the future. Companies like Siemens Energy, Technip FMC, Bridon Bekaert, Baker Hughes and Royal IHC are genuinely world leading in what they do, and with the recent news about the Tyne Corridor securing Investment Zone (IZ) status comes renewed opportunities for economic growth and innovation.
The energy sector is also playing a pivotal role in the transition to a low carbon economy, something which all the businesses I’ve spoken to feel is just around the corner if we can build policy frameworks that incentivise investment in production processes, machinery and most importantly, skills.
If there is one subject that has come up time and time again over the last six months, it is the skills challenges businesses are facing as they try to grow their operations and pivot into green industries.
For example, there is a strong consensus that in Newcastle and the wider North East, we need more engineers at all levels who are equipped with the knowledge and technical expertise that is required to develop, construct and operate offshore wind projects.
This is an area where our region is already at the forefront, with international assets like the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult and the Port of Tyne’s new Operations and Maintenance Base, which has been built to service the world’s largest wind farm at Dogger Bank. The North East also has the highest proportion of STEM students of any English region (67,000), with almost 10,000 studying engineering and technology-related subjects.
However, such is the scale of the UK’s goal to generate 50 gigawatts (GW) of clean energy from offshore wind by 2030, we need many thousands more skilled workers to achieve this target.
Moreover, to get the UK to net zero by 2050, we need skilled people working across the low carbon energy mix, from solar and tidal power to blue and green hydrogen – areas where North East companies have unique expertise.
At Invest Newcastle, we want to be part of the solution, working with strategic employers to help them find the right people and networks to take their business forward. I am also sending feedback to central government via DBT about the need for a more joined up approach.
Given the North East’s proud maritime and industrial heritage, there is substantial opportunity to reskill workers in non-renewable sectors like oil and gas. We also need to streamline the process for bringing in overseas talent and we are working with immigration lawyers to see how this can be done.
What is vital is that we collaborate across the public and private sector to integrate the green industrial revolution into everything we do so that we can collectively drive the North East to a sustainable and more prosperous future.
If you’d like to get involved in our work or if you’re a foreign owned business in the North of Tyne area, I would love to hear from you on this subject.
To start a conversation or simply get some free advice and support, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org