Energy Transition Outlook

As the energy sector transforms and innovates into a decarbonized, digitalized industry, it is crucial that talent pools are available with the right balance of skills and experience to deliver the projects and operations needed for a brighter tomorrow.

NES Fircroft, a staffing company dedicated to providing the skilled engineers and technical workforce needed to deliver the energy and scientific solution for the future, recently put out an energy transition survey. The survey is a global workforce analysis focused on the entirety of the energy sector. Feedback was received from more than 6,000 individuals, many from the traditional oil and gas (O&G) sector as well as people already working in alternative energy and renewable solutions.

With the goal of offering employers a unique insight into the current temperature of the talent landscape and how they can attract, retain, and develop the expertise they need now and in the future, the report dives into topics including:

  • Do workers feel they have the skills they need to transition to work in clean energy?
  • Do they want to move sectors? Which sectors are the most attractive?
  • What is making people move, but equally, what is holding them back?

The survey unveils a clear perception that while exciting opportunities and potential may lie in the renewables space, the skills gap will hold back change.

Oil and Gas

The sector as a whole has always demonstrated an outstanding ability to adapt to the demands of the changing energy landscape and has attracted best-in-class engineers who have delivered the world’s energy needs for decades. When NES Fircroft last surveyed the O&G market in 2019, it showed this global industry was looking to adopt a more “local” approach to building talent pools to ensure projects could be resourced with less logistical hurdles and that skills gaps could be filled in country. The outbreak of COVID-19 has meant companies have had to trial split location or complete remote working for some engineering jobs, and where this has been successful, it may become a preferred solution moving forward.

Our 2021 research shows that as the O&G market begins to bounce back from the challenges of 2020, the skills gap is still a pressing issue, with a concerning 67% stating they are considering a move to another sector. The dominant factor driving people to leave appears to be the opportunities available and future potential of other sectors.

However, on a brighter note, the industry remains attractive to workers looking for strong salaries and exciting engineering projects. Indeed, 35% of the survey’s respondents are relatively new to the industry with under 10 years’ experience. While some have made the move to new sectors, many still see their future in O&G, as salaries are perceived to be stronger and projects are still enticing.

Clean Energy

As more and more pressure is put on companies to decarbonize by governments, consumer groups, and investors, the outlook for the Clean Energy market is bright. It is certainly an exciting time to enter this sector, which is reflected by the fact that 80% of our respondents only joined the industry in the last decade—60% have moved from other sectors, but 40% are choosing to start their career in this industry.

The future potential and opportunities in the industry stood out as the key reasons making it an attractive career choice. Many respondents also highlighted that it aligned with their values, which will be helpful for companies recruiting the next generation of engineers who in recent years have been attracted to the technology sector rather than choosing a career in energy.

One point to note is that those who have moved from another sector did not find the transition an easy one. Companies may need to look to offer tailored training and development programs to ensure candidates feel confident to make the move and can apply their skillsets easily without the risk of project delays.

Salary Insights

Interestingly, many O&G workers stated they did not wish to make the move into the realm of Clean Energy, as they perceived salaries to be lower. However, our research shows that this is not necessarily the case. Of those respondents who have transitioned, over 75% said their salary was in fact higher or about the same.

Conventional Power

The Conventional Power industry is facing many of the same challenges as its compatriots in O&G; however, it is perceived to be a stable industry where employees stay for many years and is one of the few sectors where “jobs for life” are still a reality. It has had a good influx of new talent with 38% stating they have been in the industry for under five years, but over 43% have been working in Power for more than 10 years, so the balance of experience is well distributed.

Our results show that this sector cannot be complacent however as nearly 80% of respondents stated that they are considering a move. Again, the future potential of the sector was cited as candidates perceive there are more opportunities elsewhere.

What Is Driving Energy Transition?

It is clear that in the last decade there has been a shared global push from the public toward a sustainable future, backed by government initiatives and accelerated by the coronavirus and its impact on oil prices. However, our respondents pointed to technology as the crucial enabler, and it is clear that the large oil and gas companies themselves have been a driving force in accelerating change.

Our results show that there are three major issues that the energy sector now needs to tackle together. They are:

  • Reduce the costs of renewable energy solutions through technology innovation.
  • Accelerate the transition from traditional oil to renewable energy sources.
  • Tackle the skills gap.

Both the O&G and Conventional Power sectors have a significant pool of talent that could transition into new energy solutions and resolve the top two challenges, given the right training and opportunities to do so. However, the aging workforce remains an issue, and the Clean Energy industry still needs to tackle this talent gap issue to move forward at pace and meet the tough targets that governments around the world are setting.

Looking to the Future

The Energy industry has always been exciting and challenging, and one that is constantly evolving. As we move into an age of new clean energy solutions, it is clear that technology will play a vital role to reduce costs and accelerate change. However, people working together from across the energy spectrum will always be the key to turning the vision of a net-zero future into a reality.

We must not lose sight of the fact that traditional O&G companies will play a vital part in the successful transition of the industry and that skills training will be needed to give engineers the confidence to move into new areas. The results of this survey show that many candidates feel positive about the energy transition and the exciting projects it offers. Alignment with their personal values is a key driver for many and organizations should bear this in mind when considering recruitment strategies for the future.

While our research shows that salaries are not playing a huge part in tempting talent to make the move, they are in line with other sectors and the rates will only improve as the pace of change and need for talent increases. The future energy landscape will be driven by leveraging technology innovations and digitalization to continually reduce the environmental impact of oil and gas for years to come, as we move to cleaner solutions and more reliance on renewable sources.

Gavin Peavoy is managing director—Americas and Europe with NES Fircroft.

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