SKILLS NEEDED IN THE ENERGY SECTOR

Many essential jobs in the renewable energy industry require a skilled workforce. Industry surveys in Germany have suggested that on average renewable energy jobs are relatively high-skilled, across both fuel-free and fuel-based technologies: 82% of employees in the industry have vocational qualifications and almost 40% of these have a university degree, compared to an average for the whole industrial sector of 70% and 10%, respectively (Lehr et al., 2011). According to a survey that took place in 2008 by the Energy Institute, Deloitte and Norman Broadbent, five skills areas (technical, management, financial, marketing and leadership) have been identified. Almost 4 out of 5 said that technical skills were a key shortage area, against half stating that management skills were a shortage area. At the bottom of the list were financial skills which 40% listed as a shortage area. Interestingly, both marketing and leadership skills were rated equally in short supply – just under half of the respondents citing this problem. Specific shortages in each area were noted as follows:

Technical

Engineers: Chemical, electrical power, drilling, operations, petroleum, reservoir, production, mechanical, pipeline, structural – especially those with practice expertise, report writing and consultancy skills.

General technical:Alternative/renewable energies, fire safety, drilling and well site supervisors, IT, “hands on” skills, pressure vessel designers, metallurgists, industrial energy efficiency – especially problem solving and R&D skills.

Scientific:Geologists/geophysicists, microbiologists, chemists.

Management

Project management: Experienced project managers for both large and small scale projects (cited by almost 15% of respondents), risk management, technical management skills, additional practical as opposed to theoretical skills, contract skills, MBAs, enhanced industry awareness of grass roots problems, experienced engineers with additional management skills, integration work in a global environment.

People skills

Line management skills, “managing managers”, department managers. A common theme here was that these management skills in short supply were often best resourced internally.

Financial/commercial/business skills: Energy trading, international finance, overseas finance management, economists, reporting skills.

Marketing : Sales and marketing managers, selling the “added value” of the company, marketing profile skills, closing sales, understanding of world markets, dealing with clients, marketing of technical skills, managers with wider experience of commercial technology, commercial skills to develop new markets.

Leadership: People that can “lead, not follow”, ability to work individually and head up a team, industry engagement in key initiatives, ability to develop technologists as leaders, greater all around rather than specific skills, understanding the interactions across a business, engineering plus MBA degree, project managers, more positive ‘can do’ attitude, self confidence and able to work with all levels. Other skills and behaviors noted as being in short supply were: Ability to observe and learn, good logical thought and ability to instruct others, willingness to travel extensively, ability to change course quickly as circumstances demand, languages, initiative, motivational skills, maturity when dealing with the industry cycles caused by energy price fluctuations and geopolitical changes.

Source: Energy Institute, Deloitte and Norman Broadbent Survey, 2008

Usual methods of recruitment

60% of respondents recruited graduates direct from university. Fewer than 20% used the milk round for graduate entry and just three respondents used it for experienced hires. Over half used recruitment agencies for experienced hires but less than a fifth of respondents recruited graduates in this way. The most popular method was indirect advertising/personal contacts, which was used by over three quarters of respondents for experienced hires, and by over a quarter for graduate entrants. This was more popular than direct advertising, which was used by almost two thirds for experienced hires. Only one in 10 respondents said they would fill vacant posts through internal promotion of their graduate entrants. However half would fill such positions from their experienced staff. Internal training schemes similarly fared relatively poorly with only one in 10 graduates being recruited to posts via such training schemes. This seems to belie a surprising lack of faith in internal training schemes.

Source: Energy Institute, Deloitte and Norman Broadbent Survey, 2008

Jobs across the value chain

Fuel-free technologies that are on-grid, such as wind power and solar PV, tend to involve the highest levels of employment during manufacturing and construction. Fuel-based Technologies, by contrast, are most labor-intensive at the point of feedstock production and, in the case of biofuels, distribution. The largest numbers of renewable energy jobs are found in China, Brazil, Germany, India and the United States, which are also leading industrial players in the renewable sector. The top five wind turbine manufacturers are from Denmark, China, the United States, and Germany; and the top five solar PV cell manufacturers are from China and the United States (REN21, 2011). These are generally countries which have offered long-term policy support to renewable energy, and have significant national markets for the technologies in question.

Among the fuel-free technologies, wind power is a significant source of employment across a broad range of countries. In 2010, this included estimates of around 150,000 jobs in China, 96,000 jobs in Germany and 55,000 jobs in Spain. Compared to the size of its labor force, the 24,700 jobs reported in Denmark in 2009 were also significant. The highest jobs estimate related to solar PV in 2010 was in China with 120,000 jobs, closely followed by India, with 112,000 jobs. Solar PV-related jobs were also numerous in Germany and Spain in 2010, with over 107,000 and 28,000 jobs respectively. The latest jobs census conducted in the United States estimates over 100,000 jobs in the solar energy sector, though without reporting how this breaks down across solar PV and solar thermal.

Dimitra Katsoula (high res)

by Dimitra Katsoulas,
AUEB iMBA Energy & Sustainability Club
Executive Member