Businesses looking to recruit in the renewable energy market must adopt a more flexible approach if they want to overcome the massive skills challenges in the short term.
While it’s clear systemic change is fundamental to long-term progress, more immediate solutions are needed to help businesses fill the vacancies that are crucial to their own – and the UK’s – net zero agenda.
Energy recruitment specialists at the Jonathan Lee Group have been drawing on the company’s 45 years of experience to explore measures that can be taken by managers, HR teams, CEOs, and green start-ups right now to tackle the skills shortage.
Jonathan Lee Group associate director and energy recruitment specialist, Lee Elwell discusses the issue……
We all know there is a skills shortage in renewable energy recruitment and it’s serious enough that it threatens to jeopardise the UK’s ability to meet its net zero goals. Yet the market itself is in a massive boom phase and this is only going to continue.
It’s obvious change is needed at a grassroots level in terms of education and training, but this isn’t helpful to the businesses which need staff today – and there are a lot of them.
If we take just the solar sector alone, our own insights tell us there’s a 25 per cent annual growth in appointments, and there’s plenty of other data around which evidences the supply-versus-demand gap.
So how do you fill vacancies when there aren’t enough candidates to go round?
Staying with solar as an example, let’s look at the opportunities and challenges before exploring the measures businesses can take to find the best people.
- Government has pledged to increase the UK’s solar capacity five-fold by 2035 – resulting in some 10,000 jobs
- ‘Green’ job postings now make up a third of UK listings, according to Linkedin’s Global Green Skills Report
- 91% of energy professionals are willing to consider a role in clean energy (City & Guilds and Engineering UK)
- Government’s new Solar Taskforce is targeting the ‘untapped potential’ of commercial buildings to revolutionise UK solar power.
- There’s been a 315% increase in demand for solar installers on Indeed, which came out top in its 20 best jobs in the UK for 2023. Sustainability consultants and environmental managers also feature in the top 20.
- The UK is currently failing to meet its emissions targets (Climate Change Committee)
- Recruiting from Europe is more difficult post Brexit
- The EU has its own skills shortage, with an estimated need for more than one million solar workers to meet targets for 2030
- UK energy workers don’t feel the sector is ready for a transition to clean power sources – City & Guilds and Engineering UK
- The number of people in vocational training and university is not sufficient to meet demand
While all those external factors can lead businesses in the renewable energy sector to feel powerless, there are steps they can take to help solve their recruitment challenges.
A skills-based approach
The Linkedin Global Green Skills report found almost all green jobs are currently filled by people from other green jobs, but meeting the gap will require workers to transition. Focusing on skills, rather than titles and qualifications, will provide part of the solution. This might mean looking to engineering, manufacturing, technology, electrification, or HVAC, for transferrable skills, especially for roles such as project management, sales and operations.
A flexible approach
It can be worth considering hiring contractors or consultants for more specialist roles to help get a project off the ground, particularly for start-ups.
The candidate compromise
We often see firms who want candidates to meet 100% of their brief, but is it the right brief? Is it realistic given the skills gap? There could be really decent candidates who are 75% of the way there who might just need some additional training to turn them into the ideal candidate.
Knowing where to look for certain skillsets can also boost chances of success. This could mean targeting people in particular roles or industries with naturally transferrable skills, or geographical locations with a particular affinity with a certain sector.
Competitive benefits package
As with all recruitment where demand outweighs supply, a competitive benefits package is key to winning the best candidates. We help businesses benchmark salaries and expectations. Candidates are now also seeking development opportunities, flexibility, and wellbeing support.
For businesses which can navigate the current challenges, the potential rewards are huge as we progress towards a greener future.