Offshore wind is growing fast and is expected to grow even faster. At the end of 2021 there was 57GW installed globally, by 2031 the Global Wind Energy Council forecasts 370GW will be turning, and the vision to meet the 1.5°C Paris Agreement scenario by 2050 is 2TW.
Offshore wind is in a sweet spot in that it squarely answers the energy trilemma of affordability, sustainability and security of supply. Add to that it can be deployed at scale, displacing large amounts of fossil fuels and meet the power demand of high growth economies. And it is already delivering a huge number of skilled jobs, typically double that of onshore wind per megawatt installed. Being out at sea it also doesn’t suffer the objections from the general public that a high penetration of onshore renewables continue to suffer. This combination makes offshore wind compelling to politicians.
However, this rate of growth brings with it a few big problems.
One is around recruitment. The projections I’ve seen are that we need to bring around 1 million people into offshore wind this decade and more beyond to support the promised sector growth. All the successful companies in the sector are recruiting hard, including developers, supply chain and supporting industries. There are opportunities for students and apprentices and for the most part companies have training programmes in place for them. The great thing is the growth of the sector means these young people can now see their whole career being in offshore wind.
But the bigger challenge is bringing experienced hires from other sectors into offshore wind. This is all part of the just transition, helping people from polluting industries move into the sustainable economy. Of course, oil & gas is a big potential source of ‘new blood’ but personnel are also coming in from the navy, rail, construction, manufacturing, power, mining and other infrastructure sectors. Many of these people have 80% or so of the skills needed for offshore wind but require transition training to bring them up to speed to deliver value fast.
Traditional classroom and online training partially fit the need. However, I think e-learning, which has itself developed its techniques and application substantially of late, is the real opportunity. Using easily accessible, low-cost, ‘bite-size’ modules, we can reach a much wider population of potential employees. E-learning can inspire people to appreciate that offshore wind is an opportunity for them, personally, but will also introduce them to the technology, principles, nomenclature, techniques and insights that make the sector so special.
Once they have crossed the threshold into offshore wind, then more detailed and in-depth training will be appropriate. I’m currently working on a number of initiatives to create such e-learning and would welcome discussion with others who would like to contribute to solve this ever-pressing issue.
Offshore wind has risen to meet numerous challenges to-date and we should feel confident we can do the same again provided there is sufficient focus and creation of quality resources for us together to help people into their future careers.
· Alastair Dutton is CEO of strategic intelligence consultancy Advent.re