David Wilkie: “People are excited to work in renewables for us”

2 March 2022

Prospect rep and SSE engineer, David Wilkie, reflects on his transition from the oil industry to working in renewables, the extension of the company’s union recognition agreement to some offshore workers and why sometimes older equipment is better.

Picture of David Wilkie

David Wilkie, SSE

As a veteran of the oil industry in Scotland, David Wilkie was never particularly looking for a job in renewables but he’s certainly glad that’s where he is now.

“Most of my career has been in the oil industry. When I finished college, I did an HND in Engineering and everyone just wanted to get into the oil industry because that’s where the money was,” he says.

“Oil is obviously on the downside now, but it wasn’t a conscious decision to go into renewables. I knew that it was the future, but it’s just how things have worked out for me.”

Renewables is the place to be within the energy industry right now, but David also acknowledges the ‘halo effect’ of being seen as a key component of the fight against climate change.

“I think people are very excited about working in renewables for us. There has been such a change in people’s attitudes on climate change and SSE is really pushing this message too.”

While David is older and approaching retirement, he knows that his career horizons would be more limited if he had stayed in the oil sector.

As he says, there seems to be new investments and announcements on a regular basis which shows the renewables sector is still booming.

Union recognition for offshore

In his role as a Prospect rep, David sits on various committees within SSE and has regular dialogue with management.

“I know the other reps too and we all work very closely together. I think it’s very good that management talk with us. It’s not always what we want to hear, but it’s still a positive to be with them around the table.”

Late last year, there was a tremendous outcome when the company’s recognition agreement with unions was extended to some staff working in offshore wind.

“I think it’s great. When I worked in offshore oil the union representation was very poor. I really hope that getting that recognition at a major company like SSE will establish trade unionism in the offshore industry as it develops.”

David says he always been a believer in trade unions but stepped up to be a rep when “no one else wanted to do it.”

“But I’m glad I did it because it’s been very interesting. Unfortunately, I have had some personal cases that I didn’t expect to deal with. When I joined hydro there was a real family feel to it, but some individuals were not being treated fairly.”

Career history

Having previously worked on SSE and Scottish Power plants while under contract with Ross-Shire Engineering, David joined SSE on a permanent basis in 2006 as a maintenance engineer.

He looks after all the hydro generation plants, which is about eight machines of varying sizes and types.

“Basically, my role is to plan all the maintenance to ensure that the safe system of work is followed and to issue all the safety documentation required for that,” he explains.

In other words, he is the engineer who is called for any technical issues and “the guy people come to for advice if anything goes wrong.”

The work can be varied as it’s a mix of modern and older equipment.

“A number of the stations were refurbed in the early 2000s, so they have got modern equipment in them, but a lot of machines are still running the original equipment with relays and mechanical governors and there’s not a computer chip in sight.

“Funnily enough, in my experience, the older equipment is probably more reliable than the modern stuff as long as it’s maintained correctly.”

David is very happy to be working in a sector which is creating clean energy and bringing other benefits to society in the race to achieve Net Zero, but his job goes beyond that too.

“These hydro plants have got a long history in terms of social and economic development for the local areas so maintaining these assets is also a real source of pride for me.”

Climate emergency


From generation to transmission, Prospect represents the interests of over 22,000 members working across all parts of the energy sector.