Green battalion: British Gas to recruit former service personnel to net zero workforce

A recruitment drive which could see 500 former military personnel sign up to the mission to build a net zero emission energy system has been launched by British Gas-owner Centrica.

The energy giant announced plans late last week to recruit hundreds of former soldiers, sailors, and air force personnel into engineering roles across British Gas and the wider group by the end of 2023 in support of its net zero goals.

“Supporting our customers to get to net zero is at the forefront of our plans, but we need the skilled workforce to deliver at the scale and pace necessary,” said Greg McKenna, managing director of Centrica Business Solutions, which is sponsoring the programme. “The market for ex-forces has become recruit competitive, but we plan to use our extensive heritage of deliver-class training alongside dedicated support to bring on board the talent required to deliver on our Net Zero plans.”

The energy supplier has asked consultancy Matero, which is led by the former Army Colonel Stuart Tootal, to design and build the new recruitment programme, which will then run to the end of 2023.

Centrica said its goal was to create “a best-in-class civilian career offering to the former forces’ community”.

“Centrica offers an attractive package to service leavers, however, this will be enhanced by providing a career transition pathway to support interested service leavers on every step of their new career journey,” said Tootal. “By providing mentors, called ‘oppos’, we hope to make the transition to civilian life that little bit easier by supporting with interview preparation, professional training, membership in the Centrica Ex-Forces Network, and physical and mental health support.”

The first intake of 12 ex-forces trainee gas engineers have already begun their 42-week training and should provide a template for the full recruiting programme, which the company plans to scale up later in the year.

One former soldier involved in the initiative is Alex Smith, 33, from Wolverhampton. A sniper with the 2 Rifles based in Northern Ireland, he was medically discharged in 2013 after being involved in two IED explosions during tours of Afghanistan, which damaged his hearing and eyesight. “I have always wanted a trade and this offer was amazing,” he said. “It’s a skill to be proud of which will give me stability in my working life to provide for my family and it opens up a lot of routes for progression into green energy.”

As well as boiler maintenance and repair, Centrica’s 7,000 strong engineering force works across electric vehicle (EV) charge point, smart meter, and heat pump installations, as well as solar and battery storage projects, in support of the company’s ambition to reach net zero emissions by 2045.

The group has set a target for ensuring 50 per cent of those starting careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) roles are women.

Veterans Minister Leo Docherty welcomed the new recruitment drive. “This is a fantastic initiative that will provide support to our service leavers and veterans by helping them find employment once they leave the military,” he said. “I am delighted with the opportunity this provides to those who have served our nation’s military and recognises that the military gives you skills for life.”

The news follows the announcement, last September, that Centrica plans to train 3,500 apprentices over the next decade through a new programme, which aims to rapidly expand its team of Smart Energy Experts. The recruits will install smart meters, EV charging points, heat pumps, hydrogen boilers, and other clean energy technologies in homes across the country.

Visiting the British Gas Academy as the program was launched, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Upskilling people around the country is crucial to scaling up the UK’s green industrial revolution over the next decade.

“Centrica’s commitment to hire and train 3,500 apprentices will build the next generation of clean energy experts, who will go on to install the electric vehicle charge-points and heat pumps we need across the UK.”

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