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Question of the Week: The challenge for wind recruitment

This week, Windpower Monthly has spoken to US turbine manufacturer GE, and recruitment consultants Allen and Yorke, and EarthStream to discuss the biggest challenges in recruitment facing the wind industry.

What recruitment challenges are facing the industry?
What recruitment challenges are facing the industry?

Question: Where is the wind industry facing its greatest recruitment challenge and what does it need to do to solve it?

Andy Holt, general manager of wind projects and services, GE Renewable Energy

Let's focus on the recruitment of talent in a specific segment of the industry: wind technicians.

Recruiting new talent to the wind industry—specifically wind technicians or other similar skilled jobs—is about making a local commitment to different areas, which presents both challenges and opportunities GE works hard to execute on. Often, recruiting for the wind industry is about bringing these high tech jobs to rural communities, which is a unique opportunity for GE and the industry itself.

For every ten wind turbines GE produces, one skilled technician is needed to help maintain and service the turbines. As the wind industry grows globally, we see this as an opportunity to grow high tech jobs in rural places, creating tangible benefits for local economies and populations.

GE sees recruitment to the wind industry as an excellent opportunity for skilled job creation, and a great area for hiring veterans into these types of positions. Veterans are highly skilled and technically trained, making them ideal talent to recruit into our industry.

One of the hurdles we face as an industry is supporting the talent pipeline. The industry can only hope to be as good as its talent. We need to grow the talent we have in the industry, and through investing in continued training and education, we will help attract new people to our space. GE is doing this today.

Across the industry, supporting and maintaining the talent pipeline is a vital challenge we all must ensure is a key priority, both now and in the future.

 

Tom Wolsey, renewable energy team leader, Allen & York

The skills demand in the offshore sector is only set to increase over the next few years as Round 3 wind farms enter construction phase. A shortage of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) graduates has left a gap in high level project management and leadership talent.

One of the most common requests we have from our clients is to source candidates from oil & gas (O&G), which makes a lot of sense, given the crossover between skills, however there are a number of challenges. Most marked are the difference in salary and location. Salaries particularly are higher in O&G as they are dictated by the large profits that drive the industry, as opposed to the more heavily subsidised and emerging offshore wind sector.

Suggested solutions would include; transferring talent from other sectors and re-training them in the short to medium term. People from traditional power generation and power transmission and distribution industries will be ideal as they are able to appreciate the main difficulties of large construction projects and the associated CDM regulations.

Candidates with high previous exposure to electrical, mechanical and civil disciplines through planning, design and construction, should also be well suited and transferable. This would include those working in industries such as pharmaceutical and aerospace.

 

Eddie Halkett, group business development director, EarthStream

The greatest recruitment challenge that the wind industry faces relates directly to the factors that have impacted the sector in recent times – how to create a stabilised market, maintaining continuity of projects, financial and political issues and external perceptions regarding the viability of wind as a dependable employment choice.

The offshore wind industry continues to suffer from acute skills shortages and competition from the oil & gas and traditional power industries; this has been compounded by the cyclical nature of projects, which has had a recent affect on retention.

If the industry achieves its ambitious targets of 30% adoption of wind power by 2030 that could create a projected 560,000 jobs in Europe and 2.6 million globally. The challenge is to establish and preserve a sustainable, international skills market that does not fluctuate and decline as a result of inconsistent investment, political interference and fierce competition from other subsidised energy sources.

Some initiatives which would help secure the levels of skills required in the sector include: collaborative industry efforts to market the variety of exciting and stimulating career opportunities; continued initiatives that invest in entry level skills; a plan that commits to cross skilling applicants from parallel industries; and improved compensation conditions to secure career-minded individuals.


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