Around the world, the renewables sector is a growing industry — and that means it needs an increasing number of new employees to support and drive it to further success. In 2017, renewable power generation increased to 29.4% from 24.5% from the previous year, which is an indication of our growing reliance on renewable sources and technology, and the people who work with them.
But what routes can you take to make a successful career in the renewables sector? Within this article, we'll explore the renewables sector in the UK and the training courses involved with entering the industry.
Breaking into the renewables sector
By 2040, the World Economic Forum expects that the global average annual net capacity for renewables will be 160 GW, compared to approximately 50 GW for gas and 20 GW for coal. If this comes to fruition, the renewables sector will be even greater than it is now, leading to a heightened demand for skilled workers.
The International Renewable Energy Agency created approximately half a million new jobs in the renewables energy sector last year, which brought the total of global workers in the industry to around 9.4 million. In the UK, there are around 126,000 renewables employees, according to the Renewable Energy Association, and with record growth in areas such as onshore wind power construction, it's no surprise that this sector is a popular one for career starters.
“Wind and marine energy currently supports around 30,000 direct and indirect jobs and there is the potential to generate a further 70,000 over the next decade,” states Sophie Bennett, RenewableUK's policy manager for employment, skills and training.
She added: “Working in renewables offers the chance to be part of an exciting, diverse, growing industry as well as playing a part in the fight against climate change. You could work on land, at sea, in an office or in a laboratory.”
The renewables sector appears to be an attractive career choice for those looking for fulfilment, growth and variety. But what is the training landscape for the renewables industry?
Essentially, there are two main avenues that you can go down to secure a job in this industry: universities — offering undergraduate and master's degrees — and non-university institutions that offer apprenticeships and nationally-recognised qualifications.
Looking online, you can find a range of establishments offering what seem like a variety of course styles to break into the renewables industry. Although these training programmes generally feature similar modules, such as health and safety, the key when selecting the ideal course for you is to have a clear idea of the type of role you want. Here are the major career opportunity areas and examples of job roles that fall within them:
To work in this sector, qualifications in core STEM subjects are required for almost all positions. You can gain entry to a career via an apprenticeship route — the benefit of which is paid, practical experience — or take the higher education path by achieving a degree in a STEM subject.
Options are great and allow for a wider network of people from all backgrounds to launch a rewarding career in renewables — but is there a clearer way into the industry? Apparently so, with steps being taken to standardise the entry route for many roles. For example, in March 2018, the Global Wind Organisation developed a new Requirement for Performing Basic Technical Training (BTT) Gap Training and Merit Assessment. The aim of this new training programme is to bridge the gap between different training courses and is expected to be especially beneficial to smaller traders and independent workers.
Jakob Lau Holst, CEO of Global Wind Organisation, said “The result will be a global pool of technicians whose basic safety and technical training competences can be validated in the GWO database WINDA and transferred from one employer to the next, helping employers avoid unnecessary spending on retraining, and providing certainty across the supply chain.”
Offered by training providers — including hydraulic torque wrench specialist, HTL Group — the BTT standard is designed to streamline the training process and will reportedly lower the time it takes to complete the training.
The Engineer's Salary Survey revealed that the lowest proportion of workers qualified via apprenticeships in the renewables sector, at just 28.8%. In contrast, the sector has the highest proportion of employees who have qualified with a bachelors or honours degree at 58.6%. What's more, 54.5% of those surveyed are professionally registered in the energy, nuclear, and renewables sector. This clearly highlights the sector's high entry levels and demand for education.
Of course, the qualifications you need will depend on the type of job you wish to pursue. Jobs within the renewables sector are broad and far-reaching, including engineers, analysts, and project managers. Whether you wish to launch a renewables vocation, already work in the industry, or are thinking about changing career, the growth of the renewables sector seems set to continue.