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5 steps to attract and retain talent in wind energy

The NREL researchers found that experience, geography, and hands-on training all played key roles in attracting and retaining talent.

Research from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) explores the reasons behind the wind energy workforce gap and suggests solutions for closing it.

In a survey conducted by NREL, employers cited a lack of appropriate experience, education and training, and enough applicants as reasons they cannot find qualified applicants for positions. 

Students and recent graduates, meanwhile, identified difficulties in getting relevant work experience and technical training as well as finding employment opportunities near where they live or want to live.

The gap–identified in a 2019 NREL study–among industry employers, the workforce, and educational institutions results in wind energy employers being unable to fill entry-level jobs and students or recent graduates struggling to land these positions.

In one report, Defining the Wind Energy Workforce Gap, researchers documented what they said are ongoing challenges faced by the industry, the potential workforce, and energy-related educational institutions and training programs. The team surveyed the wind energy industry as well as current students and recent graduates from U.S. educational institutions to better understand how people move into and through their wind energy careers.

For a follow-up report, Defining Wind Energy Experience, the same researchers analyzed data on job requirements to gather insights into company practices, job seekers’ difficulty in finding relevant entry-level positions, and the variety of career pathways for select occupations in the wind energy industry.

Broadly speaking, the researchers found that experience, geography, and hands-on training all played key roles.

As part of their study, researchers chose three occupations to review: environmental scientist, power systems engineer, and welder. All three are crucial to growing the wind energy industry and are in high demand.

The occupations represented uniquely different sectors of the industry and provided examples that the research team could use to suggest practices to help connect the wind energy industry with its potential workforce. Those suggestions include: 

Providing on-the-job work experience through internship programs and assistant roles—positions more likely held by power systems engineers than environmental scientists or welders

Developing internship and graduate-focused programs for power systems engineers and environmental scientists

Using clear, consistent language across the industry in job post labels, such as “entry-level” or “junior,” to make it easier for potential job applicants to identify suitable positions

Offering a central location (for example, an industrywide job portal) for applicants to submit resumes and track their application status

Collaborating with academic institutions to incorporate relevant coursework into their curricula to build candidates’ knowledge, given that, for example, one of the most frequently listed requirements in job postings for environmental scientists is experience with the National Environmental Policy Act and other environmental laws, regulations, and policies, making this knowledge important for the potential workforce to acquire

Considering factors that affect worker retention, given that, for example, power systems engineers and welders have a higher position turnover rate than environmental scientists.

The researchers said that applying their findings can improve the connection between the wind energy industry and its potential workforce, helping the nation succeed in transitioning to a low-cost clean energy future.

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