Going green: attracting and retaining talent

Renewables are full steam ahead. From windfarms and solar parks, to biomass and wave energy, Europe is a hotbed of innovative clean energy ideas and large-scale projects. The progression in the sector is really taking shape through forward-thinking initiatives like the Renewables Grid Initiative.

Renewables are now delivering a third of EU power, which is a real step change from just 12 per cent back in 2000. In Germany, renewable energy has recently replaced coal as the country’s main power source for the first time.

More widely, the European Union has recently offered €750m for clean energy infrastructure projects across the continent. This is a significant step towards the 2030 climate and energy goals, with targets including a 40 per cent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions from the 1990 levels, a 32 per cent share for renewable energy and a 32.5 per cent improvement in energy efficiency.

On the surface, it looks like a great year for the renewables sector, both the industry and the people who work in it. The Global Energy Talent Index 2019 recently revealed that most renewables professionals have enjoyed pay rises and expect more. It also suggested most would enter the sector again if choosing from scratch and, though there is a skills shortage, renewables has the pull to attract talent from other sectors if necessary. However, this doesn’t mean it can be complacent. Quite the opposite. As the sector grows, its talent will need to keep pace.

Last year, only 43 per cent of renewables professionals said they were open to changing sectors. This year, that contentment seems to have dissipated, as 77 per cent are now open to a move, with power and oil and gas the most popular destinations away from renewables. On top of this, 46 per cent of sector professionals are worried about an impending talent emergency.

Therefore, despite all the strengths, the sector is threatened by a new and sizeable challenge in keeping hold of talent.

So, what can renewable energy companies do to retain and attract workers?

Training

In the GETI survey, 56 per cent of the renewables sector stated better training would help to address the looming skills crisis and assist retaining existing talent. Training programmes help to map out clear career paths and increase motivation, with 48.5 per cent of the renewables sector stating this clear progression will help with any talent challenges.

Apprenticeships

These offer another path into the sector and provide opportunity to access potential from a younger generation. Apprenticeships are more popular than ever, partly thanks to the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in the UK, but also because of the benefits they brings to both the employee and employer in boosting productivity and opening opportunities. In addition, introducing STEM subjects into education earlier will not only inspire talent to get involved in the sector, but also help to elevate the individuals already in the sector.

Gender diversity

Despite recent efforts to encourage women into the energy sector, it still remains one of the least gender diverse sectors in the EU economy.  Therefore, creating a more diverse workforce will be key to addressing the looming skills gap. Renewable UK has an initiative called the Switch List, where they have created a female only directory of speakers providing the opportunity to raise profiles and showcase job opportunities. This focus will create a more diverse industry and encourage those already in it to continue their career and propel themselves further. Another example is POWERful women, a platform seeking to advance the professional growth and leadership development of women across the industry.

To meet European government environment targets, 18 million new jobs will be generated by the global green economy by 2030. The industry needs to work together to tap into that untouched talent to ensure it has a strong pipeline, and eventually meet the continent’s goals.

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This post was written by Paul Murphy, Europe and Africa Recruitment Director at Airswift