Renewable energy companies in the US have employed more than 800,000 people -- a number that is increasing every day. New renewable energy technologies accompanied with high-skilled workforce will help to reduce our carbon footprint and enable us to transition towards a renewable energy future. In order to keep up with the dynamic changes and growing expectations of the renewable energy industry, the industry itself must present tremendous opportunities for the new incoming workforce, while continuing to educate and provide additional training to the industry's current workforce.
Renewable Energy Workforce Is Aging
Since the renewable energy workforce is aging, the industry is now facing a job experience gap in hiring qualified employees to run and maintain its growing demand.
Currently, the industry doesn't have an abundant number of workers who have the skills needed to operate the future electricity grid. At the same time, those who occupy these positions are approaching retirement and will soon be leaving the industry in the next five years.
According to a report about the renewable energy professions, 1 in 5 hiring managers have found it difficult to seek skilled and knowledgeable employees to fill open positions in the industry. Because of this issue, we need to make the right investments when it comes to training potential employees. These employees must be given the guidance and the necessary tools needed to take the industry to the next level.
● The aging workforce
● Difficulties recruiting experienced workers
● Being in an industry that changes rapidly
● Having specific training and certification requirements
With a recent study stating that the smart grid and electric utility industry will need another 105,000 workers by 2030, now is the time to address these major challenges. The industry is only going to grow larger and at an even faster rate than previous years; therefore, there is an urgency to get more qualified employees into the renewable energy field.
Forty-three percent of utility companies that were surveyed recently stated that the aging workforce and increased retirement rates were one of their most urgent challenges needed to be faced. With retirement rates not being uniform across skill levels, and every region having different requirements and qualifications in terms of recruitment, the process of nurturing industry replacements becomes disrupted. Due to this matter, the experience gap between the new incoming workforce and the current workforce widens.
Four Ways to Address the Skills Gap
The major challenges listed above should not be viewed as intimidating. With the right amount of investments going toward time, support, guidance and effort, these challenges have the capability of generating substantial opportunity to provide growth to our economy and the renewable energy industry. In order to address the challenges present in this growing field, companies should take a few things into consideration.
1. Industry Leaders Must Act
Those paving the way in the renewable energy industry must recognize that the industry's workforce is currently being affected by these major challenges. It is important for leaders in the field to guide the decisions of policymakers to ensure that they are not only educated on the matter, but also support the development of industry-related programs. These programs will help to build a well-trained and experienced workforce, equipped with the proper knowledge and skills needed to keep up with the growing industry.
2. Education and Training Programs Need to Adapt to the Industry
In order to meet the needs of the wind industry and still be flexible enough to adapt to the dynamic shifts in the industry, education and training programs must go beyond the skills learned solely as a technician.
Currently, college degrees specific to this industry are most important for the following positions:
● Assembly Workers
● Wind Technicians
● Development Technical Specialists
● Research Engineers
● Professors and Teachers
Investments should be made in these areas to produce the skilled employees renewable energy companies need.
3. Universities Need Substantial Support
The idea that colleges and universities across the nation offer a limited amount of courses and degrees specific to the renewable energy industry is not the only thing challenging this the ever-growing field. Schools need to provide substantial support to expedite the training process needed to succeed in the industry. It is suggested that colleges and universities alike should ask for state-level workforce commission resources and federal support to help jumpstart industry related courses, programs and training.
4. Renewable Energy Companies in the US Need to Become Part of the Solution
Renewable energy companies in the United States need to be proactive about the challenges the industry faces today. Companies in this field should be working alongside educational institutions to help create a workforce that will evidently work to their benefit. Although companies can help promote studies in the renewable energy field by providing scholarships and funding, the solution should ultimately involve renewable energy companies sharing industry expertise with schools in order to provide the framework needed to produce a strong workforce.
Building a Renewable Energy Workforce for the 21st Century
In Brazil alone, the renewable energy industry has approximately 876,000 workers, while the European Union has 1.2 million. Although those numbers are quite large, China leads with 3.4 million people working in the industry. The country has also implemented a plan for a massive investment in renewable energythat will allow the county to add 2.6 million more jobs every year to the industry until 2020.
While the United States currently has 800,000+ Americans working in the renewable energy industry, this increasing number still does not compare to those of other countries. In order to drive the renewable energy movement and become a global leader in the field, the United States must first address the challenges associated with the industry's workforce aging and the skills gap between the new and current workforce widening.