More than two years after the COVID-19 pandemic eliminated over 600,000 clean energy jobs, almost 75 percent of those jobs have been regained, and the industry is returning to rapid growth. In fact, in the cleantech sector, jobs grew by more than 5 percent in 2021.
The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 provides an estimated $370 billion in solar, wind, and electric vehicle subsidies that are projected to create nearly 537,000 jobs a year for a decade. American consumers are benefiting from tax credits to upgrade their home heating systems or install solar panels on their roofs.
Here are some promising signs of cleantech growth:
Expansion of employment opportunities
“More than 3.2 million Americans were employed in renewable energy, energy efficiency, storage and grid modernization, and clean fuels at the end of 2021,” according to the 2022 U.S. Energy and Employment Report. Other key findings include:
- Every clean energy subsector added jobs in 2021
- 50 percent of new energy jobs were in clean energy
- Clean transportation jobs grew by 26 percent
- Clean energy now employs 3.5 times more Americans than fossil fuels nationwide
- Almost half of all clean energy jobs are in construction-related fields
- 5 million construction jobs were supported by clean energy
- 14 percent of clean energy jobs are in the manufacturing sector
Growing nationwide presence
While larger states like California, Texas, New York, and Florida possess a strong presence of cleantech companies, other areas like Illinois, Michigan, Massachusetts, Ohio, and North Carolina all employed more than 100,000 clean energy workers in 2021. Given the Biden Administration’s commitment to supporting renewable energy and projects to combat climate change, it’s expected that more states will continue moving away from coal, oil, and gas toward more environmentally friendly alternatives.
A talent shortage
As the federal government continues to invest in the clean energy space, and companies offer better wages and benefits to entice top talent to put their skills and abilities to good use within the industry, there remains a significant challenge. With the U.S. employment rate at a historic low—3.5 percent—companies are struggling to fill jobs, threatening to stall the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.
89 percent of solar companies reported difficulties finding qualified talent due to competition, a small applicant pool, and lack of worker training, experience, and technical skills. “If you look at the projections going forward, we can see that the demand is huge and we will probably struggle on the supply in the long run if we don’t put in place specific plans for how to close this gap,” states Kerstin Knapp, executive vice president for people and culture at wind giant Vestas Wind Systems A/S. She continues, “it is really an underestimated element of the energy transition.”
According to McKinsey, “between now and 2030, the global renewables industry will need an additional 1.1 million blue-collar workers to develop and construct wind and solar plants and another 1.7 million workers to operate and maintain them. These include construction laborers, electricians, and operating engineers.” White-collar workers—including wind and solar project developers, project managers, finance professionals, and legal experts—will also be in short supply.
Looking to the future
While Biden administration initiatives bode well for the cleantech industry, the talent shortage is not going away anytime soon. Companies need a focused talent attraction strategy in the short and long term. To meet these demands, organizations are working to:
- Bridge the skills gap: 65 percent of international companies are looking to training and development to fill their skills gap. Beyond training blue-collar workers, higher education courses and certifications are available to assist in developing a new generation of graduates to lead the post-pandemic cleantech transition. The Building Skills for a Clean Economyreport found that “often key skills are not highly specialized to cleantech” and “common skills can be used with a different lens.” Workers in other industries can successfully transfer skills to the cleantech sector.
- Create clear career paths: There is no right path to a job in cleantech. Workers are needed from multiple backgrounds with different experiences and skills. While this provides vast opportunities, it can also be overwhelming during the hiring process and challenging to retain employees, provide career pathing, and mentorship. Career pathing offers a clear view of where workers can go and helps keep their long-term goals in mind. Mentorship programs help to encourage goal setting and can yield increased career satisfaction and advance promotion opportunities.
- Capture high-potential employees: Deploying grassroots recruiting initiatives in your local community can include on-site visits to colleges and trade schools, printing ads, job flyers, etc. Implementing initiatives around universities and vocational schools targets people in the early phases of their careers, helping secure future talent and build strong bonds. Center your focus around students and potential candidates with a passion for sustainability and the environment.
Implementing these strategies will help set your organization on a trajectory to attract and retain the talent needed to meet your workforce needs in 2023 and the years to come.
Acara Solutions offers a comprehensive suite of workforce solutions to organizations in the cleantech industry. Contact us today to learn more about how we can work together to streamline your talent acquisition and workforce management needs.