Our country's engineering sector is vital and offers a backbone to modern society. It is even more critical if we are to meet the environmental targets the government is hoping to achieve via a significant increase in renewable energy. Understanding the shortage of skills in these sectors is essential in finding effective solutions and driving the sector forward.
Lack of qualified and knowledgeable employees
Primarily, the main issue facing both the UK engineering sector and the renewable energy sector is attracting and retaining its skilled workers. Even with the rise of technological developments which is automating a number of roles, there has been a shift in demand for engineers who understand this new hardware.
Coupled with this rise in demand is a reduction in the numbers of skilled electricians and mechanics entering the industry, and thereby exacerbating the skills shortage. As more homes become reliant on modern technology, there hasn’t been an equivalent rise of skilled workers to fix and regulate these should anything go wrong. One of the primary reasons is simply the lack of interest from younger generations in these kinds of careers.
According to a study by the Renewable Energy Association, nearly 70% of renewable energy companies face difficulties in recruiting suitably qualified engineers, highlighting the magnitude of the issue. This lack of skilled professionals can also hinder innovation.
Renewable Energy Sector Specific Skills
With an increasing emphasis on sustainability, engineers need to understand circular economy principles and waste management strategies specific to the renewables sector. This takes time and when the training process isn’t streamlined, it leads to a steady decline in which more skilled workers are retiring before they can be replaced.
Engineers in the renewables and sustainability sector must have the skills to assess and mitigate environmental impacts throughout the project lifecycle. This commitment is a long term process. The results however are more than profitable and engineers skilled in Life Cycle Assessments can provide valuable insights into the environmental performance of renewable energy systems.
Net Zero by 2050
By addressing the workforce shortage, the engineering sector can ensure its continued growth and innovation. As the demand for clean energy solutions continues to rise, the shortage of engineers with expertise in renewable technologies becomes more pronounced.
One of the more recent developments in the renewable energy sector is the goal of “Net Zero”. This refers to the government’s goal by 2050 of no longer adding to the total amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Traditional energy sources have relied on fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide and methane which are major contributors to global warming. In alignment with the 2015 Paris climate agreement targeting the release of these gases, the growth of renewable energy to replace fossil fuels is critical.
For the UK government, the pressure on the growth of the renewable sector is clear. Recent announcements have delayed sales of new petrol and diesel cars alongside schemes to help make homes across the UK more efficient. However, if introduced properly, then a shift towards electric and hybrid cars, alongside a reduction in the energy required to run homes, will drastically reduce carbon emissions over the next decade.
Investment in training engineers with the right skills for the renewable energy sector is critical. It's vital for the requisite growth of the sector to ensure it has the right people to operate and maintain their infrastructure - be that hardware or software. Organisations should invest in professional development programs, collaborate with educational institutions, and engage in partnerships with experts in the renewables and sustainability field.
Shorter term, headhunting is a great way to find those sought-after but hard-to-find candidates, as the rigorous methodology we employ ensures we proactively identify all suitable individuals for the role.
We're increasingly seeing the same skills shortages across other sectors and have recently filled senior engineering roles within an engineering consultancy and a major provider of critical infrastructure.