As the renewables industry shifts and evolves, there is a growing demand within the sector for a skilled and robust workforce that will support the sector to become long-lasting and sustainable. The ageing workforce and lack of training opportunities for new and emerging technologies have presented skills gaps across the sector, causing issues for renewables employers and developers across the globe.
Each year we see investment and ambition grow in renewables, but as the sector prepares to deliver on the Government’s Net Zero ambitions by 2030, the industry is faced with growing skills shortages that threaten to compromise the capabilities of the workforce. The Government is continually restructuring its commitment to renewable energy and as new markets emerge across the sector, a massive strain will be put on developers and employers to source the personnel with the relevant skills and knowledge to work safely in the industry.
Renewable UK has estimated that the workforce will rise from its current figure of 26,000 to 69,000 by 2026, but if the UK is to deliver on its targets by 2030, there is a demand for a highly skilled, competent, and future-proof renewables workforce.
Recent research published by Brunel found that 56% of employers suggest an ageing workforce and a lack of skills were the main reasons behind skills shortages, closely followed by insufficient education and training as the key driver (as cited by 40% of respondents). Interestingly, Health & Safety was also among the top three fields affected by skills shortages.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem. Instead, a holistic view should be taken, and employers should consider a combination of both short and long-term solutions which ensure sustainability is at the heart of educational and training programmes at a national and local level. Through employers working more collaboratively with training providers, we can work together to implement the rollout of programmes and initiatives across all levels, to deliver a pipeline of talent that is readied to support net-zero ambitions.
To address the problem, employers should look at a range of solutions, whether that is expanding training programmes for their existing workforce or broadening their recruitment processes to target people with transferable skills in other industries. As Chief Operating Officer of a leading Health & Safety training provider serving the renewables industry, we are constantly seeking new ways to expand our training programmes and encourage individuals to enter the sector. We recently launched our Basic Technical Training course for example which will help to drive the transfer of skills from more traditional electrical, mechanical, and hydraulic roles, into the renewable sector.
Traditional engineering, technical, and project management skills continue to be in demand in the renewables sector. But as new technologies emerge, the dynamics of the workforce will continue to shift creating new and exciting opportunities for more tech-focused roles. As a sector, there needs to be a clear understanding of what direction the technology is moving in, and how that will affect the skills needed in the future. If a clear understanding is established, training can be focused to ensure delegates obtain the relevant skills needed for the future renewable energy workforce.
In the coming years, training will be a key enabler in the upscaling of the wind workforce, with a focus on the upskilling of existing talent and creating career pathways for individuals in the industry to progress through. There is also another opportunity around transitioning skills and talent from other industries.
Within the sector, the quality of personnel and the employer’s perception of the training required widely differs from company to company, however, most just meet the minimum requirements – an issue that needs addressing. Employers must prioritise the training and development of their staff, and not rely on the minimum level of training. It is proven that lack of skills can lead to accidents on wind farms, putting the safety of personnel at risk and resulting in additional costs for developers. Suitably trained staff not only increases productivity but reduces the risk of accidents and incidents occurring on wind farms.
The rapid growth in renewables developments will lead to a sharp increase in demand for skilled workers. This growth will undoubtedly put a strain on the current talent pipeline. By working together, the Government, employers, and training providers, we can deliver long-lasting employment growth. From transferring skills to enhanced training opportunities for the current workforce, a broad approach to the skills shortages is the best way to ensure the sector can develop a skilled workforce capable of delivering on the UK’s net-zero ambitions.