Cable Engineering Manager Caroline Bradley tells us about her work on North Sea Link – the world’s longest subsea cable, which shares clean energy between the UK and Norway – plus the importance of diversity within the energy industry and why it’s an exciting time to join the ‘green collar’ workforce.
I joined the National Grid graduate scheme straight from university, with a degree in electrical engineering. Once I completed the graduate programme, I joined an asset management team that focused on underground cables and supporting teams out on the road.
I soon realised there were many opportunities within the business to explore; including green collar jobs that make a real difference in tackling climate change.
After working in different roles across electricity and gas, I joined the team focusing on interconnector projects, including North Sea Link (NSL) – a huge subsea cable that enables the UK and Norway to share renewable power – based in Blyth, Northumberland.
Having grown up in Blyth, I was really passionate about the NSL project. It was a job where I could really see the benefits in terms of cutting carbon emissions, creating local jobs and helping the UK meet its climate goals.
This role also had an element of international collaboration, as the team worked closely with our partner Statnett in Norway to deliver an interconnector with the capacity to power up to 1.4 million UK homes with green energy.
For me, one of the key reasons behind fewer girls and women joining the sector is an ongoing misunderstanding of what engineering is and what we do.
This became really clear when I volunteered with the Imagineering Foundation, which aims to introduce 8-16 year-olds to the world of engineering and technology. Many of the younger children thought engineering meant getting muddy and digging holes, and it made me realise that more needs to be done to help them understand, from an early age, the huge breadth of roles that fall under engineering; there’s the manual, hands-on side and there’s also a more technical side, and then there are people who sit in the middle and bring these two areas together. That’s what I get to do now and I absolutely love it.
In the energy industry in particular, we need to recruit people with a diverse range of backgrounds to help us overcome the challenges to reaching net zero.
To attract talent from different communities, we've seen more engagement with diverse groups across the sector and an increase in the number of women and girls pursuing engineering. But, to continue on that trajectory, we must address ongoing barriers and misconceptions that can still discourage people from considering this career path.
It’s a really exciting time to join the energy industry, with a huge opportunity to work with and learn from people that want to help the UK deliver on net zero commitments through innovative solutions.
There will be so many new developments in the years and decades ahead, and we need people who think differently and can bring fresh ideas to the sector to make the most of these.
You don’t need an engineering degree to pursue engineering; there are lots of routes into the profession, such as apprenticeships. So for anyone considering engineering, especially in the energy sector, I’d recommend you go for it.
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