Energy industry evolves: 1/3 of workforce considering move to renewables

Solar power worker

A recent global report on employment trends within the energy industry has found that the increasing preference for green energy among legislators and the public at large is also reflected within the industry’s own workforce.

Drawing insights from over 22,000 energy industry professionals across 191 countries, the Energy Outlook Report 2021 suggests that a shift toward green energy is both likely and desirable, as workers look to ride the boom and avoid the bust in a rapidly changing sector.

A staggering 73.2% of energy workers stated their intent to pursue new opportunities, either within their current sector or an alternate energy-producing field. This is a considerable increase from 55.8% the year prior. What factors are driving this change and how can workers and companies make the best of it?

The appeal of a career in renewables

As an increasing number of governments and organisations around the world set net zero targets and a huge amount of venture capital investment flows into innovative, carbon neutral companies, a career in renewables is increasingly being seen as a secure path for the future.

Driven by ambitions to contribute to a healthier planet, along with concerns that conventional energy roles will eventually become redundant, more than a third (37.5%) of workers in the oil and gas sector are considering migrating to renewables. In particular, younger workers are attracted by the longer-term, secure career opportunities offered within renewable operations. 

This global trend is corroborated by patterns emerging within the Australian job market, where employment in renewable energy has increased by more than 120% over the past 10 years.

"We are currently experiencing a revolution in jobs growth across the Australian economy, based on an undeniable fact: renewable energy is not only clean, but cheap, and getting cheaper," said Brunel Australasia Managing Director, Tania Sinibaldi.

A growing skills shortage

As younger workers flock to renewables and experienced specialists retire or seek to adapt their skills to a green energy setting, talent gaps are beginning to emerge in the more conventional areas of energy production. The Energy Outlook Report 2021 found that more than half of the recruiters surveyed (56%) cited an aging workforce and lack of skilled staff as key reasons behind the ongoing skills shortage.

Despite the seemingly inevitable march toward a greener mix of sources, the energy industry still needs to continue operating until renewable technologies can scale to the point where they are capable of fulfilling global energy demands. How can traditional energy operations attract and retain the highly skilled specialists they need in the meantime?

Graduate roles, upskilling and the kitchen sink

The Energy Outlook Report 2021 found that employers are looking at a range of solutions to address the skills shortage, most notably expanding training programs for their existing workforce (64.7%), broadening their recruitment processes to target candidates with transferable skills in other industries (36.2%) and collaborating with colleges to attract top graduates (29.4%).

“Companies need to look at how they can upskill and develop the talent they have. Offering more training and re-evaluating career benefits will be key to attracting the right specialists,” said Brunel’s Global Oil & Gas Industry Leader, Jeroen van Drunen.

Non-renewable energy companies are also investing in new technologies such as artificial intelligence, sensors and digital twins to remain competitive. Having ‘smart’ assets and oilfields is a key driver behind companies’ ability to extend the life of existing assets, reduce costs, and improve worker safety. These improvements are crucial to the ongoing competitiveness of conventional energy. And finally, many conventional energy companies are choosing to embrace greener energy solutions and pivot their business models towards renewables.

Australian energy companies lead charge to renewables

As the Australian government inches towards alignment with the global Net Zero 2050 target, many energy companies are making their own carbon reduction commitments. Fortescue Metals recently announced it will go carbon neutral in nine years' time, well before the world's biggest carbon emitting economies are planning. BHP is focused on unlocking the potential of carbon capture and storage and plans to introduce emission-free surface mining vehicles. South32, OZ Minerals, IGO and Gold Fields have joined forces with Barminco and nine other companies to form an electric mine consortium that plans to cut emissions. Stanwell Corporation recently revealed the company plans to step away from coal-fired assets and focus on green hydrogen as it transitions to renewable energy to meet emissions targets. These are just some examples of Australian conventional energy companies striving to capitalise on a future decarbonised economy and retain a competitive edge.

New opportunities ahead

While the impending push toward renewable sources will create huge shifts within the energy industry, they don’t necessarily spell disaster for companies and workers willing to adapt. Those with the foresight to anticipate, embrace and harness the winds of change will reap the benefits in the years to come.

Brunel International N.V. CEO Jilko Andringa believes the future of the energy industry looks bright.

“Today, the energy industry finds itself in an incredibly exciting position. As we work towards a cleaner and greener future the industry becomes more innovative, combining traditional fuels and resources with fresh ideas and new technology, changing the landscape of the industry and how we all live our lives,” Mr Andringa said.

“This leads to multiple opportunities for the current workforce and the workforce of future generations.”

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