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.
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 also obvious that change is needed at a grassroots level in terms of education and training, supported by the necessary investment to promote green careers.
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 year-on-year growth in appointments, and there is 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 – equating to 70GW of generation capacity and 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, including those in oil and gas, are willing to consider a role in clean energy (City & Guilds and Engineering UK).
- The 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. Also featuring in the top 20 are sustainability consultants and environmental managers.
- Low carbon and renewable energy employment estimates are at their highest level since the first comparable figures in 2015, with a 16.4% increase between 2015 and 2021 (ONS).
- The UK is currently failing to meet its emissions targets (Climate Change Committee)
- Recruiting from Europe is more difficult post Brexit, and 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 a bit powerless, there are steps they can take, straight away, to help solve their recruitment challenges.
A skills-based approach
A finding of the Linkedin Global Green Skills report was that almost all green jobs are currently filled by people from other green jobs, but meeting the gap will require workers to transition. Adopting a skills-based approach, rather than focusing on titles and qualifications, will provide part of the solution. This might mean looking to engineering, manufacturing, technology, electrification or HVAC, where skills can be easily transferred, especially for roles such as project management, sales and operations.
A flexible approach
When it comes to the more specialist roles in design, or technology, it can be worth considering hiring contractors or consultants to help get a project off the ground. This often provides the ideal solution 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 in order to do that. In addition to salary, today’s candidates are also seeking development opportunities, flexibility, and wellbeing support.
In the medium-term, we’re encouraging businesses to do what they can to upskill ready for the many opportunities that are coming in renewables arena. Whether that’s a domestic solar panel business adapting to include commercial installations, developing an apprenticeship scheme or industry qualification, or starting a new venture. For those which can navigate the current challenges, the potential rewards are huge as we progress towards a greener future.
Guide provided by Jonathan Lee Group