Norfolk

UK skilled engineer shortage 'drives EU recruitment'

Scroby Sands off Great Yarmouth Image copyright PA
Image caption Several offshore wind farm projects are planned for the southern North Sea

A shortage of skilled engineers is forcing growing energy companies in Norfolk to look abroad for employees.

The East of England Energy Group (EEEG) told an oil and gas skills conference at Great Yarmouth engineers were coming from the EU and eastern Europe.

County business leaders said it was a short-term solution and companies needed to improve the industry's image.

Last week a Northamptonshire sandwich firm said it was recruiting workers in Hungary instead of Britain.

The hosts of the energy industry conference, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said firms had to work with schools to attract young women and men into the industry.

Caroline Williams said recruiting from abroad was a short-term answer.

There had been errors on both sides, she said, as the industry has not invested in skills and education had not funded science and maths subjects.

'Too laid back'

Simon Gray, chief executive of EEEG said: "The growing oil, gas and renewables sector is screaming out for engineers and is having to fly in recruits from across Europe."

He told the conference that the industry, schools and families needed to focus on training for the skills needed.

"Engineering is looked on as nasty, greasy and horrible but we need to work on that perception with our children for the next generation."

John Moore of international energy group Gardline said he would prefer to recruit locally as a commitment to the community where the firm is based.

But the interests of the business must come first and that has meant recruiting from abroad.

Sacha Persiyanov, a trainee electronics technician from Ukraine, said young people in Britain appeared to be "too laid back and had no sense of urgency".

"People come to Britain and expect to work hard to pursue their personal goals," he said.

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