Guest blog: Realising Net Zero Through Green Jobs and Skills

Blog 12 December, 2023

Author: Katelyn Young, from Samuel Knight

Few people can deny nowadays that the climate crisis is very real & we must act now and on a huge scale if we are able to meet Net Zero targets. The term net zero means achieving a balance between the carbon emitted into the atmosphere, and the carbon removed from it. Almost every single country in the world has set out plans for their targets to hit net zero; for example in June 2019 the UK became the first major economy to pass a legislation for net zero, aiming to achieve this by 2050 with many other countries quickly following suit. Billions in funding everywhere in the world is being pushed into the renewable energy industry (growing year on year) as ambitious net zero targets attempt to be met.

There is much debate around how sustainable current practises really are within the industry due to so much of the technology being new & developed every single day. One thing that is certain however, is that not aiming for net zero is not an option. The costs of disastrous effects of climate change if left unchecked will be much higher than the costs of achieving net zero.

What role SK plays in the industry

Samuel Knight International is one of the largest global recruitment solution providers for the Energy and Climate Tech sectors in the world. Our purpose is to create a greener tomorrow today by working with our global community to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050 through these solutions.

As a cross-functional business model, we support all sub sectors within the Renewable Energy industry including Wind, Solar, Battery Storage, Hydro, Hydrogen, T&D with contractual work and permanent positions.We act as an extension of other businesses to support their respective goals & objectives by outfitting full teams for large scale renewable projects, right down to filling in singular roles urgently needed to progress.Samuel Knight has a world-class team of recruiters with a wealth of industry knowledge & experience alike. We pride ourselves on our diverse workforce, encouraging each individual to bring their unique skillset to the team. This shows in the work we do, with each industry demanding different skills & evolving every single day.

What gaps are there in the industry?

Arguably, there are gaps in every subsector of the renewable industry as funding for huge scale projects is constantly being pushed by world governments, with not enough manpower on the market to fill the positions. Whilst it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly where the gaps are largest, some of the most prominent are technical skills, engineering & energy storage. Due to rapid growth & new technologies, expertise in solar panel installation, wind turbine maintenance, and grid integration is often a concern.

Energy storage is also one of the most pressing concerns as to put it simply, it doesn’t matter how much clean energy we can generate, if we have nowhere to store it then it is useless. Many issues also arise with the current lithium-ion batteries used by renewable companies such as short circuits, difficulty recycling and the cost to mine the resources. However, battery storage solutions are evolving every day, developments from companies such as Tesla & more recently the Monash University in Australia claims to have developed a Lithium-Sulfur battery which could store up to 5x the energy & cost half as much as the lithium-ion counterpart.

What aspects do SK find challenging

There is a current challenge of perception of the Renewables industry, in particular women pursuing careers in the industry. This is due to several factors, one being it is a predominately male dominated industry and, two; a lack of awareness that the sector can offer much more than just manual labour-intensive work. Arguably, one relates to the other and that is what we are working on changing. The other factor is the ratio of hard transferable skills being utilised when considering candidates for positions, it should be utilised to close the skills gap in this candidate shy market. At Samuel Knight, we have recently launched The Women of Today – Energy, which is an organisation solely based on empowering women to pursue careers in the renewable energy industry whilst also supporting organisations to meet their DE&I objectives. Our Co-Founders Katelyn Young – Group Marketing & Communications Manager, Alison Lowrie – Strategic Business Director and Kenzie Morris – Director of Energy USA, all have the same pursuit, to establish equal representation in the Renewables Ecosystem and closing the skills gap.

Visit our LinkedIn page to find out more about we do: The Women of Today – Energy

What do we want and what do we not want in tomorrow’s energy jobs sector?

Many people believe that the renewable energy industry is incredibly difficult to get into & only the very best & most skilled individuals land themselves positions in the industry. This is very untrue as there is a huge demand for transferrable skills – many tradesmen, labourers, engineers, tech professionals & many more jobs have relevant skillsets which can be transferred to renewable energy.

Pros & cons can however come from this fact. As the world transitions to renewable energy away from bad practises found in non-sustainable energy vectors, a lot of these bad practices in turn could transfer to the renewable industry. This also correlates to the huge demand for workers in the sector, they are often being pulled from other transferable industries, rather than being a ‘clean sheet’ and being trained from the ground up in new techniques deemed more suitable for the renewable industry.

There is also lots of debate surrounding many of the sectors in the renewable industry regarding how sustainable it really is. For example, battery storage was previously mentioned as it is no secret lithium-ion batteries are incredibly expensive to mine in both money & resources, in turn damaging the environment. In the transition to net zero, there is inevitably ‘fallout’ from fossil fuels being used. Additionally, wind turbines fall victim to similar scrutiny. The epoxy blades used are not recyclable & are huge in scale. This means that methods of transport can be limited & in turn burns lots of fossil fuel & when viewed in terms of some of the largest wind farms on the planet, there is a lot of blades & other large components being delivered. However, new technology is emerging every day such as Vestas, a world leading seller, installer, and servicer of wind turbines is developing a 100% recyclable wind turbine blade through the CETEC project.

Advice for candidates looking for jobs in the renewable sector

We recently asked Adrian, one of our senior recruitment consultants, exactly this question! Adrian’s top 3 tips were:

Understand the global scene and your own market / country / region (growth, potential, drawbacks, opportunities)

Each country & world government has a different approach to the renewable industry & net zero targets, meaning there is a much greater emphasis depending on where you are located. The market is constantly evolving therefore it is crucial to stay up to date with developments around the world! It is not uncommon for companies to acquire visas for the correct individual to work! This means if you do your research & get ahead of the game, you could land huge roles anywhere in the world!

Working in the industry is a great way to help build a more sustainable future & give you a sense of pride in your every day profession. Understand and visualize which part can you take on that? Where do you see yourself with that goal?

Everybody’s skillset is unique to them, everybody takes pride in different things & everybody has their own unique way of thinking. Renewable company’s are crying out for talented individuals to enter the industry, whether you are switching industry’s & have acquired transferable skills, or you are fresh to the working world – there is opportunity everywhere. Sectors range right across the board, from labourers on the tools right to IT professionals & project planning; senior & entry level positions alike! There is no better industry on Earth to give you a sense of pride in your work, knowing that you are contributing to a more sustainable tomorrow! There is no ‘Planet B’ & there is no better time to get involved than right now.

If you are switching industries, understand which skills you already have and analyse which ones you´d need to get and how you could get them.

We have already touched on this subject but it is a huge misconception that working in the renewable industry is only for the lucky few. If it were up to us, everybody would be working in the industry! It became a huge ‘wow factor’ if somebody told you they worked in renewable energy; whilst it is still a huge achievement, it is not as unattainable as commonly believed! So many current trades & professions have transferrable & desirable skills. Engineers, technicians, electricians & so many more have skillsets already desired in the industry. There is also demand for IT professionals, so if you are somebody who doesn’t see themselves as very manual labour driven there is still massive opportunity for you to transition to the industry.

Project management, Technical expertise, HSE (Health, Safety & Environment) Knowledge, Regulatory Compliance, Data Analysis, Problem Solving, Leadership & Adaptability are all among the list of highly desired skillsets which are all transferable for a successful transition into renewables; tailoring your CV & Cover letter to highlight these skills can be extremely beneficial when standing out in the industry – particularly when you are looking to land your first role! Our consultants are all active on LinkedIn & are always happy to have a chat with you if you are considering getting into the industry or you have more questions!

How to access SK services:

Samuel Knight has a whole host of world-renowned clients we work with & maintain strong relationships continuously. We work to fill vacancies every single day to keep the industry moving. Samuel Knights services can be accessed multiple ways, firstly check out our newly revamped website at www.samuel-knight.com.

To increase efficiency and effectiveness in the use of public funding for knowledge exchange (KE) and to further a culture of continuous improvement within and between universities and research Centres, EDRC are committed to furthering collaboration opportunities and sharing appropriate research outputs wherever possible. This blog post is a guest contribution by Samuel Knight which was originally posted at https://hi-act.ac.uk/blogs/guest-blog-realising-net-zero-through-green-jobs-skills/. All opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of EDRC. EDRC is not affiliated with the views, opinions, or content presented in this post.