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Celia Anderson: A sounding board for energy skills

When it comes to maximising the skills of the workforce and finding the employees of tomorrow, you need one person’s number on speed dial. Celia Anderson provides connections, advice and a sounding board across the industry and is at the centre of many initiatives in the sector.
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Celia was instrumental in setting up the Skills For Energy programme with the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR). Picture: TMS Media

For someone who is embedded so deeply in the offshore industry, Celia Anderson was initially destined for a quite different career path. 

She said: “I went to university in Aberdeen and ended up working in farming, but I wanted to get back to Aberdeen to get into the oil industry.”  

Her first job saw her testing legislation in the industry looking at contingency planning in the case of an oil spill. 

“It was probably one of the most exciting things I had ever done because I was working on a real-life scenario. It was only through simulating everything that you realised where the holes were and if there were things you had not thought about tackling. The work was actually commended in both Houses of Parliament for the thorough way a piece of legislation was trialled before it was put in place,” recalled Celia. 

Celia Anderson - RenewableUKCelia Anderson, people and skills director at RenewableUK. Picture: RenewableUK

One of the big drivers for Celia in her working life is to ensure the right people are attracted into the offshore industry, and that is what first brought her to the East of England and founding the pioneering Skills For Energy programme with the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR). 

“I wanted to establish routes for people to get into it. We set up the Energy Skills Foundation Programme at what was Great Yarmouth College in what eventually ended up as the Offshore Wind Skills Centre,” said Celia. 

“The opportunity to be involved with a project like that which runs right across the energy sector was something I loved. In fact, one of my proudest moments was getting a fellowship from the University of Suffolk for my work.”  

While a presentation like that is a fitting reward for the efforts she has made, Celia’s modesty overtakes any attempt to single her out for too much praise. 

“It is lovely to see people coming through and to reflect on the hard work and heartache. I feel quite humble because it is not just me. Lots of people are needed to make all the initiatives I have been involved with work, and people are still very committed to them many years later. It is heart-warming to know that we put roots in place to help people into the industry.”  

Another key part of Celia’s career was working with the military, finding them a new career path when they moved onto Civvy Street. 

She recalled: “This began when the industry needed more engineers, and services personnel seemed like a good source of trained engineers who could transfer readily into the sector. They do bring so much into it with the skills they have and their personality traits. 

“My father and a number of my family were in the military so, to an extent, I could talk to them in their language. I also knew what they go through in their job and how they think, and this is so important when it comes to helping them and advising them into the sector as well. 

“I am not necessarily an expert, but I can put people in touch with others who can speak their language. Using the military as an example, I have an understanding of their cultural behaviours.” It is this knowledge and interest in people that have made Celia a crucial cog in the industry. 

tms_skills18_088Celia Anderson was instrumental in setting up the Skills For Energy programme with the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR). Picture: TMS Media
 
Other areas of her working life include spearheading the drive to ensure the right people with the right skills are in place through her role as people and skills director at RenewableUK, and consulting on skills with Opergy. 

“I love the range of challenges and being able to make a difference. This is where I am really privileged as I am in a position where I can facilitate change,” she said. 

The sector is also at a key transition point with the oil and gas crossroads, the offshore wind expansion, and huge investment and interest in hydrogen and geothermal, and this means embracing a new generation of employees who are every bit as diverse as the sectors they will be a part of. 

“I am working with an industry that wants to change, to be more inclusive and diverse, and one of the key areas I am working on is apprenticeships. We need to make sure they continue to be fit for purpose, address future skills needs and we need to also make sure we are finding routes for apprentices into the supply chain. 

“It is not a case of inventing new apprenticeships. It is making sure we can adapt and change as we move forward.”  

It is also crucial to ensure future employees know about the wide range of opportunities in the sector. 

“It is a young industry with an average age of 40, so we need people coming in of all ages. We are highly innovative with things like green hydrogen and floating wind. We do need the turbine technicians, but we also need a significant proportion of people in sales, procurement, contracting, finance, tutors and trainers, and the administrative side. 

“There are also large numbers of people involved in the manufacturing industry so there are lots of different sectors.”  

The need for employees to fill all sectors in the industry remains and Celia will be at the forefront of it, getting feedback and vital industry intelligence from the key players while also making sure the right training is available for the right people with her forensic but holistic approach. 

In a fast-moving industry which needs to be nimble and forward-thinking, Celia’s role remains as important as ever to ensure the needs of the sector and those who want to work within it retain equal prominence. 

tms_skills18_029Celia Anderson was instrumental in setting up the Skills For Energy programme with the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR). Picture: TMS Media

FUTURE SKILLS  

With her strong links with the industry and her focus on the future, who better to look at developments in the months and years ahead than Celia Anderson? She is foreseeing a future where technology like VR, robotics, data analytics and cyber security all become front and centre of working life, but she also has one concept in mind. 

“When I think about the future, integration is the watch-word. It is about using wind turbines to power oil and gas installations, making blue hydrogen from oil and gas and green hydrogen from offshore wind. We have given a commitment as an offshore wind industry to scale up significantly,” she said. 

Celia has also joined the advisory board of CeraPhi, which is promoting geothermal as an energy solution and a way of harnessing the heat beneath our feet. 

She said: “I love working across the energy sector and this is another way of helping to achieve zero carbon on a global basis. It is a way of bringing existing skills into a similar environment. This is a cost-effective way of providing a decarbonised heat source. 

“The other thing I would like to see is a change in education. Part of that will come through simulations and VR but it is also important to think about how people are taught and learn. With the speed the industry is changing, many things that are learned during a three- or four-year apprenticeship could be redundant by the time they finish. It is often more important to know how to analyse information rather than the information itself.”