The renewable energy industry is booming and it’s a superb growth sector in which to forge an exciting, challenging career with a huge range of opportunities. Even better, it is a growth industry that is greatly in need of skilled employees and many of its roles are highly paid, with 27,000 new workers needed within the industry by 2030. Whether wind, wave or another technology is attracting you, here’s a guide to finding your first job in renewables.
Choose your study path
This industry is really diverse, so there are various study routes to take, with paths that encompass the environment, engineering, ecology, renewable energy technologies, power generation, operations management and a range of support functions. This means that you can choose from hundreds of varied career paths from each qualification choice. Bear in mind, however, that a planned career path is useful if you aim to specialise and that each qualification will vary greatly in terms of academic requirements, workloads, eventual careers and expected salaries.
Consider the apprenticeship route
This is also a great industry to get into via the apprenticeship route, so you don’t need to automatically assume the traditional university path. With an apprenticeship, you will be working in a job with an employer, receive a mix of on-the-job and classroom-based training, work towards necessary qualifications and receive an apprenticeship wage from day one. Even better, you will be ideally placed to accelerate your career within your chosen organisation after a headstart in an apprenticeship role. Many of the big firms have apprenticeship schemes in renewable energy, so do your research to see what’s out there.
Keep up to date
It’s important to do your research and understand the offshore renewable industry, as well as the onshore sector. Stay abreast of industry news to see what developments are happening. This kind of knowledge will also help you to apply your learning and choose the direction of your skills development. It will also give you plenty of material to refer to in interviews. There are a huge number of publications, online news sites, blogs and other resources to choose from, including the corporate social media accounts of businesses in which you are interested.
Some of the most exciting opportunities involve offshore working on wind farm development. It helps to be as flexible as you can when researching opportunities, particularly if you wish to work on-site. Some of the largest offshore renewable developments will require relocation to benefit from the best career opportunities. Luckily this can often mean choosing to live and work in beautiful coastal areas – or even to consider projects abroad.
There are always opportunities to network, even when you are a student. Attend graduate days and career fairs; look for chances to attend talks and seminars; ask for referrals from your teachers or lecturers and make links with recruiters. Be polite, friendly and enthusiastic, demonstrating your commitment to the career path, your interest in the topic and your plans for the future. But always look for ways in which you can help other people in your network too. This is a good policy to adopt throughout your career, so that your networking is about two-way benefits rather than simply ‘taking’.
Look for experience
In all industries, relevant experience is a fantastic way to get ahead and to stand out from the competition. Look for opportunities to work in your field in a summer job, or a temp job. Hunt for internships and project placements. If you can’t find roles directly in the renewable energy industry itself, try to gain work experience in complementary and aligned companies. For example, you could look for a placement within a renewables manufacturing setting, or within a supplier business.
Job hunting is always challenging, even in a growth industry. Know that you will need to be persistent and accept setbacks in your job search. Be consistent and give time over to it every day; even if that involves carrying out industry research and staying in touch with recruiters where new positions aren’t being advertised. Reach out to your network and look for relevant events. There is always something that you can do to take your career forward.
Whatever your plans for a career in renewable energy, plan ahead, keep informed, look for opportunities to network and develop your skills, and stay on top of your job search. That hard work will pay off and your resulting career should be a highly enjoyable and rewarding one.