Monday, 22 September 2008

Entering the renewable energy market – transferring skills and experience into the industry

Today Steven Rogers will be looking at the industry verticals that may offer Renewable Energy companies the skill sets they seek.


Securing employment in the renewable energy market is hard to beat as a profession: engineers love the technology, investors receive fantastic returns from socially responsible investments, developers cannot get projects off the ground quickly enough and carbon, in its many guises, is set to be the most traded commodity in the city.

The industry is also being driven forcefully forward by a number of mechanisms from government push to consumer pull, stakeholder demands and competitive pressure. Our government has layers of legislation in place to force and reward the expansion of this industry e.g. the Carbon Reduction Commitment (
Carbon Trust) and the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS). 60% of end consumers state that they are more likely to buy a product or a service with a low carbon footprint. There is pressure from company stakeholders for companies to disclose their financial risk to climate change and up to 40% of CEOs perceive global warming to be a threat to business growth (Financial Express).

This style boom ( is our pet name for it) has a number of upshots. The one I will focus on here is the human capital challenge – how do we increase the size of our teams quickly enough to meet this growth from such a limited talent pool?

There is further good news for our industry - there are more than enough people raising their hands to join these companies! We do have a problem though… Many of the people are highly skilled and highly experienced, but their expertise lies in other industries. This brings me to what I hold to be the answer - transferable skills.

Engineering in the renewable energy industry is a good example of my point. Many engineering companies I speak with would like to hire systems design engineers with x years experience in designing integrated, on-grid, renewable energy systems. These people do exist, but they are rare, typically happy where they are and well tied into their current employer. There is often little reason for them to move.

How then, do you grow your design team?

Do you hire untested personnel and train in-house? Can you get post-graduates in to help with a project which, in turn, assists them with their thesis? Ultimately, do you let the problem become a bottle-neck for your business’ growth?

No, you capitalise of the wealth of experienced people wanting to get into the industry but to whom the door is currently closed. But, which industries provide transferable skills?

From my experience working with electrical design engineers in the building services environment, their skills can be easily advanced to incorporate micro-renewable energy technologies, plus the time needed to do so is minimal. Let’s benefit from this volume of experience, provide training on specific products and grow our businesses.

A second industry example is the automotive industry. I recently recruited an individual straight of out a car manufacturer. There he was a lead mechanical design engineer working with CAD. A department focusing on renewable energy now has him joining their design team, with the aim of promoting him quickly to lead a design team.

There are other industries too - what options do engineers in the aerospace industry offer? We also have our well established ‘big brother’, Oil and Gas, where can we benefit from their experience?

I believe that we must seriously consider the option of recruiting from parallel industries because of the required growth speed within our industry. I think this can be achieved through two main avenues; firstly companies need to be more open minded about transferable skills into the industry and secondly individuals wanting to charge industry verticals also need to demonstrate their commitment to do so. This could be demonstrated through further education or becoming involved with technologies on a local level. Courses that we have success stories from include the Centre of Alternative Technology (
CAT) and Loughborough (Loughborough) but there are many more superb courses available.

Stating that you are a keen recycler is not enough!

In my next blog post I will look more specifically at how a change of industry can be accomplished and how to identify transferable skills.

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