Recently, there has been a ton of fantastic news coming from the U.S. about the growth of renewable energy. The latest big development in the sector comes from Google with the tech giant announcing its largest package of renewable energy deals yet. Worth a total of 1,600-megawatts, the package includes 18 deals in the U.S., Chile and Europe. This brings Google’s current set of wind and solar agreements to about 5,500 megawatts (MW) and the company’s number of total renewables projects it’s involved in to 52. Google argues that the new projects will drive about $2 billion in funds in new energy infrastructure. However, although this is much welcome news, has there been enough investment in renewable energy talent to see project through to fruition?
Growth in the renewable sector
With numerous countries all over the globe aiming for net zero carbon emissions or reduced use of fossil fuels, demand for renewable energy has been on the rise. Despite this increased growth, the market has been unstable and jobs have not always been guaranteed. Research from the Solar Foundation revealed that jobs in the industry decreased in both 2017 and 2018, with 17,000 roles shed since its ‘boom year’ in 2016. This fluctuation in the sector has led to lack of specialists to work on current projects. The recent Google deal, however, will demand a large workforce and create plenty of opportunities across the U.S.
An opportunity to entice a new workforce
It has long been known that the energy and engineering industries are suffering from a skills shortage. One of the main reasons for this is that there are not enough new people entering the sector to replace those that are leaving. As a large percentage of the current workforce is reaching retirement age – and taking their skills and knowledge with them – it’s crucial that the sector finds a way to encourage more people to join soon.
This is where the Google deal gets really interesting. It’s no secret that the new young workforce are digital natives, tech-savvy and, in most circumstances, looking for a job which deals with technology. Although the renewable energy sector is already utilising some of the latest, most innovative AI and robotics, many young professionals are unaware of this and not choosing it as a career of choice. However, with Google now a big player in the industry and an instantly recognisable name, it can use its branding to draw in new and much needed talent.
Steve Rawlingson, the Group Chief Executive Officer of SKI Corp, commented on Google’s latest news:
“There’s no two ways about it, Google needs the manpower for these investments and projects to have value. However, one crucial problem that not enough people are talking about, is the lack of professionals entering the industry. With a large proportion of the existing workforce reaching retirement age, and a significant number of professionals lost during job cuts, we must do more to reach new workers. Google has a fantastic opportunity here to attract young professionals to the renewables sector. It’s no secret that the industry has been losing candidates to big tech firms, but now Google can use its reputation to help lure talent to the industry and support future growth.”
We must invest in renewable energy talent
It’s time that big companies and organisations recognise how important it is to make talent acquisition a priority. While it is fantastic that there is now state of the art technology involved in creating a safer, more efficient and advanced sector, it all means nothing if there isn’t a skilled workforce available to manage projects. As climate change becomes a more important and urgent issue by the day, we don’t have time to waste in getting a strong team together. We must invest in renewable energy talent, and we must do it now.
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