Bridging the Skills Gap: Strategies for Attracting Talent to the Renewable Energy Sector

As the demand for sustainable energy continues to grow, the renewable energy sector is experiencing a significant skills shortage. If you’re in the industry – and seeking growth and success - you don’t need us to tell you how much of a challenge this poses. Attracting and retaining top talent has become more critical than ever, and companies need effective strategies to meet these demands.

It's a topic we recently tackled more deeply in our report, Powering the Energy Transition. This report reveals a myriad of stats and facts including that by 2030, we are likely to have just 216,000 workers available to fill the c.400,000 roles required in nuclear, hydrogen, and renewables.


And McKinsey and Co. suggest that over the same timescale, the global renewables industry will need an additional 1.1 million blue-collar workers to develop and construct wind and solar plants, an additional 1.7 million workers to operate and maintain them, as well as 1.3 million white-collar workers such as project developers and managers, finance experts, legal staff, etc.


In short, the secret to success, and attracting and retaining top renewables talent, lies in companies working to reposition themselves in this ever-changing sector. If you are keen to thrive, despite the challenging outlook, then this article is for you. Read on as we uncover some of the different challenges companies face in attracting talent in the renewable energy sector and provide actionable strategies for bridging the skills gap.


The Growing Demand for Renewable Energy Talent


Renewable energy is becoming an essential part of the global energy mix, and this growth has created many – if not an abundance of - job opportunities. The transition to clean energy has been driving the demand for skilled professionals with diverse skills such as engineers, analysts, installers, and project managers. And, alongside this, it is emerging that young people are increasingly interested in working for companies that have a positive impact on the environment. 


In fact, research carried out by graduate careers experts, Prospects, suggests that 86% of graduates feel it is “vital that the company they work for has a positive environmental impact” and 85% state it is “important that a company has sustainable practices.” Prospects concluded that a company’s sustainable practices were likely to help attract and retain young people – noteworthy insight for companies looking to build a workforce that is passionate about renewable energy.


However, it remains that the sector has seen a shortage of skilled professionals in recent years. According to a 2022 report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the shortage of skilled professionals could become a significant barrier to the growth of renewable energy. This scarcity of talent can be attributed to many factors, including the sector's rapid growth and lack of formal education and training programs.


Challenges in Attracting Talent


One of the main obstacles in recruiting talent in the renewable energy sector is that it is still so new. The rapid growth of the renewable energy sector has created a demand for very specialised skills that many potential candidates do not possess. And in many cases, potential candidates are not aware of the opportunities available in this sector, not to mention the fact that both candidates and hirers can overlook suitable transferable skills.


Then there is direct competition with other industries to consider. The renewable energy sector is up against, for instance, tech and finance sectors. Specialist areas like these are known for their lucrative salaries and benefits packages, often attracting highly skilled professionals, making it challenging for renewable energy companies to compete. 


But the answer lies in innovation. Renewables companies can compete if they revisit their recruitment strategies, ensuring they stand out from the crowd. 


For instance, one approach could be embracing a diversity-led recruitment model. By promoting diversity in the workforce, companies can attract a far wider range of talent which can accelerate their energy transition.


Additionally, if you’re not doing so already, it’s time to invest in training and development programs to bridge the skills gap. By providing opportunities for learning and growth, you can attract ambitious candidates looking for career advancement. And if you are struggling to source the in-demand skills you need, why not develop them yourself in-house? Next, we will explore tactics like these in greater depth.


Strategies for Attracting and Retaining Top Renewables Talent


Attracting and retaining top talent is crucial for driving innovation and competitive advantage in renewable energy. But it takes a multifaceted approach. Here are some actionable strategies that can help overcome the hurdles covered above.


1. Develop a strong employer brand

An effective way to attract top talent is by building a strong employer brand. Showcase your company's mission, values, and culture to attract individuals who align with your vision. For example, Ørsted, a global leader in offshore wind power, has built its brand around a commitment to creating a world that runs entirely on green energy, as well as a supportive working culture. This strong employer brand helps attract professionals passionate about sustainable energy.


2. Embrace diversity and inclusion

Diverse teams lead to innovative solutions. Therefore, adopting a diversity-led recruitment model can be beneficial. This approach not only widens the talent pool but also brings in a range of perspectives that can accelerate the energy transition. Vestas, a global wind turbine company, has a comprehensive diversity and inclusion strategy, which has been instrumental in attracting a diverse workforce. 


3. Invest in learning and development

Offering opportunities for continuous learning and growth can attract ambitious candidates and encourage them to stay. Siemens Gamesa, a leading supplier of wind power solutions, offers comprehensive training programs to its employees, helping them stay updated with the latest industry trends.


4. Provide competitive compensation and benefits

To compete with industries known for their lucrative salaries and benefits packages, renewable energy companies need to offer competitive compensation. Besides monetary benefits, consider offering flexible working arrangements, health and wellness programs, and other non-monetary benefits that can enhance job satisfaction and employee retention.


5. Create a supportive work environment

Creating a supportive and collaborative work environment can significantly boost employee retention. Encourage open communication, recognise and reward achievements, and promote work-life balance. For instance, NextEra Energy, a leading renewable energy company, is known for its positive work environment and has been recognised as one of the "World's Most Ethical Companies" by Ethisphere.


6. Establish clear career progression paths

Clearly defined career paths can help retain top talent by giving them a sense of direction and opportunities for advancement within the company. It can empower individuals and help them envisage themselves with you for the long term, aiding people to achieve professional and personal goals.


Building a Sustainable Talent Pipeline


It is important to focus on building a sustainable talent pipeline to ensure long-term growth and continuity. This involves strategic talent development and succession planning, with an emphasis on education, internships, and apprenticeships.


The Importance of Long-term Talent Development and Succession Planning

Long-term talent development is not just about filling immediate vacancies; it's about preparing for the future. It involves identifying potential leaders within your organisation and equipping them with the skills needed to take on higher responsibilities.


Succession planning plays a crucial role in this process. It ensures that there are highly skilled and well-prepared employees ready to fill key roles when they become vacant due to retirements, unexpected departures, or business growth. Without effective succession planning, organisations risk facing a leadership vacuum and loss of critical institutional knowledge.


Promoting Education: The Foundation of Talent Development

Education is the foundation of talent development. By investing in employee education, you will ensure your workforce stays updated with the latest industry trends, technologies, and best practices. This could involve sponsoring employees to attend relevant courses, workshops, or conferences.


Additionally, consider partnering with educational institutions. This not only helps students become industry-ready but also allows companies to identify and attract promising talent early on.


Internships: Bridging the Gap between Theory and Practice

Internships provide students with hands-on experience and a taste of the real-world work environment. For your organisation, offering internships is a great way to assess potential hires in a real-world context. It also helps you to build relationships with future talent early on, increasing the chances of attracting these individuals once they graduate.


Apprenticeships: Moulding Future Leaders

Apprenticeships take first-hand learning a step further. They combine on-the-job training with classroom learning, allowing individuals to gain practical skills while earning a wage. For companies, apprenticeships are an effective way to mould future leaders. They allow you to train individuals in specific roles over a longer period, ensuring they develop the skills and knowledge exactly as required by you.


In conclusion, the renewable energy sector is experiencing a significant skills shortage, and the consequence is that attracting and retaining top talent is more crucial than ever. If you are a company looking to build a skilled and diverse workforce, you need to prioritise creating an inclusive work environment, providing professional development opportunities, and a positive work environment. Developing a sustainable talent pipeline through education, internship, and apprenticeship programs can help address the long-term skills gap in the industry. And only through implementing these strategies, will the renewable energy sector bridge the skills gap and continue to grow sustainably.


Spencer Ogden are specialists in this ever-changing sector, and specifically the area of renewables talent acquisition. If you would like to learn more about how to navigate one of the most exciting yet challenging markets, be sure to download our reportSO Talent Insights: Powering the Energy Transition. Alternatively get in touch with us to learn more about how we can help you attract and retain top renewable energy talent to your organisation.

Bridging the Skills Gap: Strategies for Attracting Talent to the Renewable Energy Sector
Blog Info
Alice Jones
28 FEB 2024
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