Water companies are working with schoolchildren, the Armed Forces, ex-offenders and Eastern Europeans in a bid to ease a recruitment crisis.
The industry’s sector skills council revealed the radical trials as it warned of the need for a “fundamental realignment” of recruitment.
Energy & Utilities Skills (EUS) told water firms they have just three years to avoid a crisis.
About one-third of jobs in the industry are classed as high skill, compared with the UK average of 23%. The industry has an ageing workforce and is currently not in a strong position to attract those highly skilled professionals from a nationally decreasing pool, the body warned.
David Hellier, EUS strategy manager, said: “We have identified key strands for recruitment, and employers have to embrace them and commit to a collaborative approach.
“We go along to children’s GCSE option evenings, run presentations and hold interviews,” said Hellier. “It raises the profile of the industry – we have had positive results.”
Children as young as 14 are given a day off school every week to undertake apprenticeships in the water industry. They drop three GCSEs and receive a City & Guilds qualification if they pass.
EUS also has a programme running with the Armed Forces. Hellier said the leadership and management skills of ex-Service people were badly needed in the water industry.
The EUS is also committed to training young offenders and developing strategies to attract more workers from the European Union accession nations, and is looking to bring more women into the industry.