According to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) World Energy Employment Report, virtually all of the growth in energy employment today is in clean energy sectors. Caleigh Andrews, energy analyst at the IEA, said that many types of engineering jobs are in high demand in rapidly growing clean energy technologies. “Around 45% of energy workers are in high-skilled occupations such as engineering, versus only one-quarter as an average across the entire economy. For example, electrical and electrochemical engineers are already in short supply in North America and Europe. A lack of project engineers has also been identified as a potential bottleneck in the wind sector.”
She added that while engineering jobs remain in high demand, so, too, do jobs in manufacturing and construction activities, which require more specialization than the standard occupational profiles for those in construction. Andrews said it might even be a bigger problem as few people are heading into those occupations in many advanced economies. She gave examples such as a shortage of trained heat pump engineers in the US and UK. In China, the manufacturing sector is facing a potential lack of computer software engineers, electronic engineers, and mechanical engineers.
Andrews said now is the opportune time for engineers to seek a new career in clean energy. Like many industry sectors, the competition is on the employer’s side. “The 2022 Global Energy Talent Index Report found that around 60% of hiring managers in renewables identified engineering as the most sought-after technical skill when hiring new employees, whereas less than 50% of professionals identified themselves as having the technical skills required for an engineering role,” explained Andrews.
Several Opportunities for Clean Energy Engineers
If you are a middle-management-level project engineer, you may want to zero in on the wind and solar sectors as your skills have been identified as hard to hire. “Newer industries such as hydrogen and carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) present a different problem—these technologies require unique skill sets that few have had the opportunity to develop as the industries are so young,” said Andrews.
Given that engineering is the most sought-after technical skill but new technologies are so young that many engineers don’t have that unique experience, Andrews said that employers in clean energy industries are open to hiring candidates without clean energy experience.
“There are opportunities for candidates with experience in traditional energy sectors to leverage their skills in clean energy sectors, such as offshore gas or oil workers shifting to offshore wind, or for those with experience in fossil fuel mining to refocus on critical minerals,” said Andrews. “Experience in industry, especially in chemicals, is likely to be an asset for engineers moving into emerging fuel sectors such as hydrogen and ammonia.”
For those wishing to dig deeper into the opportunities for skill transfers both within and outside the energy sector, the IEA released a report, Skills Development and Inclusivity for Clean Energy Transitions. It’s a great place to start your clean energy career journey. Whether you are currently working on an oil rig or have a job in biotechnology, clean energy has a place for you.