Pivot your digital and engineering skills to the renewables industry

The pandemic led many of us to reconsider our place in the world. Whether that came from a ‘non-essential’ job classification, experiencing the benefits of greater work-life balance in a new remote working environment, or re-evaluating priorities during a pause period over furlough, many of us came to the realisation that we wanted more out of our working lives.

Unsurprisingly, this drive for purpose and meaning has translated into some interesting trends. One study conducted in the summer of 2021 found that more than two thirds (68%) of people were debating changing careers – but only half of those were doing so for more pay. In fact, a similar proportion of people listed work-life balance (56%) and wanting a more meaningful or fulfilling career (49%) as key drivers for their job hunt. A significant 17% said they were looking to change careers in order to follow a passion or hobby.

But how could this need for purpose play out in highly technical industries like engineering and digital? Chris Barton, Director at digital and technology talent solutions specialist Lorien and Barry Jones, Principal Consultant at engineering recruitment specialist Carbon60, suggest turning your skills to the fast-growing sector of renewable energy.

Why is the renewables industry attractive for digital and engineering talent?

Chris: Renewable energy is one of the fastest growing commodity markets. You only have to look at recent current affairs to see why – on 1st April the energy price cap in Great Britain rose by around 54%, meanwhile the energy crunch felt by the ongoing war in Ukraine has raised the importance of self-reliance when it comes to energy needs. At the same time, there is mounting global pressure to invest in renewable energy as we all become increasingly more aware of the damage of climate change. All of this means great long-term career prospects.

Barry: Beyond the fact that there is clear demand in the industry (and the obvious benefits that come with that), the renewable energy industry is an exciting place to be. You’re experimenting with new concepts, using the latest technology, and thinking outside the box. For people that are wanting to cut their teeth on the latest skills, you’d be hard pressed to find a better industry. It’s also a very rewarding industry to join because you’re creating a world for the next generation. With so much investment being poured into the industry globally and so many government commitments, such as the drive to net-zero by 2050, renewables is fast becoming the ‘industrial revolution’ of our times. Few industries have such a clear path for industry expansion laid out, and the chance to be a part of that movement is a key driver for candidates.

How has demand in the renewables industry changed over the pandemic?

Chris: Renewable energy weathered the pandemic pretty well, overtaking fossil fuels as the largest source of UK electricity for a full year, and the result was quite a buoyant job market. In fact, 2020 saw 12 million people employed in the renewable energy industry worldwide. And this change in direction is filtering into other industries. In my blog on the changing face of the energy trading market I explored how the renewable energy boom was affecting other industries, like energy trading. On a personal level, I have definitely seen an increase in talent demand over the last year from renewable energy companies, but also from traditional energy providers looking to increase their footprint in renewables.

Barry: The pandemic has changed how candidates job hunt too. I think renewable energy has always been an interesting industry to be a part of, but over the pandemic people have renewed their values and really want to feel like they are contributing to something meaningful. There’s also a lot of career security in the renewables industry, given its focus on the future. I’m seeing increasing volumes of candidates choosing to turn their hand to roles in renewables over more traditional engineering roles.

Chris: It’s an interesting one, because on the one hand a lot of candidates are drawn to the sector, but on the other demand is massively on the rise. As a result, salaries and rates in the industry are staying quite lucrative, which is another plus for candidates reconsidering their careers. It’s not an industry where your value is going to decline, particularly because of the emphasis on specialism.

What jobs are created by the renewable energy industry?

Barry: You might be surprised by how transferable skills for renewable energy are. I typically work with clients for renewable energy jobs in project and programme management, site engineering, quality engineering, project development, construction management, civil/structural engineering, HSE, technical and design, and logistics. Experience in renewables will always be a selling point, but typically clients are looking for people with transferable skills in EPC (engineering, procurement, and construction), who will bring their experience and knowledge of the market with them. I would recommend staying up to date on trends in renewables in order to impress at interview, but beyond that it’s about keeping your technical and soft skills as sharp as you would for any other role. You can also check out my blog to learn more about site engineering for renewable energy

Chris: From a digital perspective, there’s a huge appetite for data and analytics roles and for AI to develop more robust forecasting models, as well as for roles within infrastructure. Job creation in the energy market is growing and the ILO is predicting up to 25 million new jobs will be created in sustainability industries by 2030, compared to roughly seven million job losses from traditional engineering – but that five million of those workers could pivot their skillsets. Thinking about turning your skills to renewable now is really just about getting ahead of the curve. IRENA believes that by 2050 43 million people could be employed in the renewable energy industry – considering that we’re currently at circa 12 million that really shows you the direction we’re travelling in!

How do I get a job in renewable energy?

Barry: Speak to Carbon60 and Lorien! We’re working with clients in this sector every day across a broad spectrum of digital and engineering roles and we’d love to have a confidential conversation with you about how to kickstart your career in the industry. You can also connect with us on LinkedIn to see the opportunities we’re currently hiring for.

Are you interested in fighting climate change as part of your day-to-day life? Contact Chris Barton for digital roles in the energy industry and Barry Jones to find an engineering job working in energy and renewables.

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