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Demystify the industry to capture future workers

While the strained global economy has seen many other industries suffer, wind energy has remained buoyant. With government funding packages made available to support wind-farm operators, the sector has experienced cumulative growth rates of around 28% over the past 15 years.

(James Fryer)
(James Fryer)

Carbon-cutting strategies are likely to continue to be of great importance and sector growth is hoped to continue. With this positive outlook, and wind providing an integral source of energy for a large number of countries across the globe, there are many advantages to choosing a career within the wind-energy industry.

But in order to attract these apprentices, we as an industry must become better at promoting ourselves. In the UK, there are many government-backed electrical and engineering apprenticeships, but nothing specific for wind energy. Perhaps this is because many don't understand the technology involved, or believe that it is too specialist to make widely available. If so, this is something we need to rectify.

In order to demystify the industry and capture the interest of future generations, it is important to engage with the education system. Manufacturing and installation firms should open their doors to schools and colleges, offering an insight into what they do and selling the advantages. Work experience placements would give students a taste of what a career in the wind-energy sector would involve and what skills are needed. It is also beneficial for businesses, providing firms with an understanding of the level of investment and training they will need to give apprentices.

There are a number of entry-level positions and, although it is important to specialise in order to work effectively in the industry, the main criteria for most wind energy roles are a love of the outdoors and a head for heights. Everything else can be learned. However, there are certain types of minds that our sector will appeal to over others, which is why we should be promoting ourselves to students who are interested in electrical engineering, mechanics and other specialist manual labour subject areas.

Employer benefits

Apprenticeships do not just offer job security to the young workforce, they are an excellent way for companies to cement their own future by harnessing young talent. Staff retention rates are also improved through apprenticeship schemes. Loyalty is often instilled in trainees who then want to stay and give back to the company that has supported their learning. The most successful businesses are those that have the backing of a committed workforce, and investing in employees is one of the best ways to foster a positive attitude in your company.

There is already a great deal of talent in the industry, but it is essential that we continue to train new people in a variety of specialist roles so that future generations can continue with turbine manufacture, erection and maintenance. We cannot expect the industry to grow if we do not invest in its future. Wind energy businesses need constant access to a pool of skilled workers to recruit from in order to continue and expand. This will be impossible unless we actively promote the wind power sector and teach people the necessary skills to pursue a career in the sector.

Apprenticeships are a two-way street. The new recruit must be prepared to work hard and absorb everything the business has to offer them and the business in turn must be prepared to devote time and resources to train someone who could be its next CEO.

David Jones is business and project development manager at Ainscough Wind Energy Services (AWES).

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