Orion Group was established in 1987 by now Chairman Alan Savage, who started providing personnel to Scottish rig construction yards as they rapidly expanded to support North Sea oil and gas exploration. At that time, Orion focused on developing strong relationships with key clients, and the business was flexible and ambitious enough to grow into new markets alongside them.
Now, with the global shift towards renewable energy, we’re seeing change on an almost unprecedented scale - and interestingly, we’re entering into this energy transition challenge with many of the same people and companies that Orion worked with at the beginning of our 35-year history. Given the impact of the war in Ukraine on global energy supply, many countries in the West are also newly focused on energy independence. All of this means that we’re continuing to support clients with their oil and gas operations, and we’re also working alongside them on their global requirements for an increasing number - and variety of - renewable energy projects. And in 2022, the geographical focus for many of our energy clients is the United States.
Looking up the renewable energy curve in the US
Since the announcement of the US Climate Bill, which laid out large-scale federal and state support for renewable energy projects, the question on everyone’s lips is this: how do we support the US government’s renewable energy plans with sufficient qualified staff, without diverting talent from existing projects in America and the rest of the world?
We predict that a combination of many approaches will provide the solution. We also believe that it presents an opportunity for progress: the pressure that companies and the government are going to find themselves under could generate fast and positive change in an industry that has the potential to offer a varied, progressive and rewarding career to so many. Here are three opportunities for the US renewables sector to sustainably increase its workforce and attract the best talent.
A more diverse workforce
According to the Department of Energy's 2021 Energy and Employment Jobs Report, black people comprise just 8% of the US clean energy workforce, compared with 13% in the broader economy. Women represent 32% of the renewable energy workforce, despite representing 46.8% of the US workforce overall. Moreover, these jobs tend to be clustered around administrative and support positions rather than in engineering and senior management roles. This is all before we discuss neurodiversity within the renewables sector. It’s an accepted fact that diverse teams perform better, so there’s an opportunity for federal and state policymakers to help the industry by prioritising investment in these underrepresented areas, supporting workforce development programs and access to STEM subjects.
A recent poll by Scottish Enterprise found that, out of nearly 800 respondents, 65% say flexible working is the thing that makes them most happy at work. This is reflected by many other pieces of research across the globe. A flexible approach also increases the odds of qualified workers - who would otherwise be frozen out of the workforce - being able to join the industry, such as those living in rural areas, carers and parents. Forbes has reported on research which revealed that jobs allowing employees to work remotely received seven times more applications than in-person roles. If the renewable energy industry can adapt quicker than other sectors to true flexibility, implemented on an individual level, it will attract great people who will stick around for the long term.
It’s no longer enough for companies to offer a fruit bowl and dress-down Fridays. An increase in home-working has put paid to many traditional benefits: what candidates want now is an individualised, whole-life experience approach, rather than the focus being solely on their happiness at work. A survey by Hooray Insurance found that, given the choice, 57% of employees would choose health insurance as their top benefit, followed by life insurance (45%) and extra holiday entitlement (41%). There is an emerging trend for companies to offer a suite of voluntary benefits so that each employee can choose to sacrifice salary for a bespoke selection, or take home more salary each month and eschew the corporate benefits. What is clear is that a one-size-fits-all approach is out, and that employers who can reflect this will retain staff for longer.
Putting our 35 years of experience to good use
Thirty-five years ago, it was impossible to predict where Orion’s journey would lead. We’re delighted that it’s brought us here, to a worldwide presence and strong and long-standing relationships with our clients. The ever-changing macroeconomic background means we are as agile as we were right back at the beginning, and we’re ready to support our clients through the energy transition. The US government’s renewable energy ambitions represent a huge opportunity for many, and we plan to help our clients and our candidates make the most of that.
Contact your closest Orion Group office to speak to us about jobs in the renewable energy industry or how we can support your business to attract the best talent.