With climate change and energy prices currently firm fixtures in the news headlines, the renewable energy sector has really come to the forefront of the public consciousness. If you’re seeking new employment that is both challenging and worthwhile, maybe renewables should be on your radar too …
Renewable energy is destined to become one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy in the coming years, needing to attract an array of talented people – perhaps as many as 50,000 over the next two decades. This diverse career sector, which works closely with more conventional building trades, such as electricians and plumbers – see our feature here – also has government backing thanks to its desire to improve the UK’s energy efficiency and be at the forefront of renewable technologies and skills.
Whether you are seeking an administrative role aligned to the building trades or decide that you would like to be an installer working in or alongside the construction industry, there are courses you can attend on which no previous knowledge is assumed or required. If you wish to be an installer, you will start at the beginning, training to be an electrician or plumber with a view to specialising in fitting, say, solar PV panels or solar thermal systems. For non-installers, training will give a good overview of the renewables industries in general.
RenewableUK is the UK’s leading not-for-profit renewable energy trade association. Its vision is for renewable energy to play a leading role in powering the UK. As an island the UK has some of the best natural resources in the world for wind, wave and tidal energy technologies, and RenewableUK believes that deploying them can generate significant power and benefit for the UK.
RenewableUK also acts as a central point of information, as well as conducting research, finding solutions, organising events and facilitating networking. To find out more, about RenewableUK, the industry in general and how you could benefit from membership, click here
RENEWABLE ENERGY DEFINED
- Solar PV (photovoltaic) – a solar panel electricity system that uses energy from the sun, which is then directly converted into an electricity supply large enough to run household lighting and appliances.
- Solar thermal – also uses the sun, but turns its energy into heat.
- Wind turbines – work by using a turbine to convert the wind from kinetic energy into mechanical power.
- Rainwater harvesting – literally capturing and storing rainwater, which then has a variety of uses domestically and on a larger scale.
- Ground source heating – extracts heat from the ground by using buried pipes. It is used in all kinds of heating, including underfloor systems.
- Biomass heating – uses organic materials such as wood, crops and so on (either alive or recently living) to produce heat through combustion.
For information on job roles and vacancies in the industry, visit RenewableUK’s JobFinder page.
Job vacancies in offshore wind alone are set to more than double by 2030, supporting 27,000 direct jobs. RenewableUK publishes a guide to careers in offshore wind that explains the types of careers available.
Visit the Faces of Wind Energy website to discover the wide variety of jobs created and supported by the wind energy industry, and to read about people from all walks of life who are passionate about what they do in the sector.
Click on offshorewindcareers.co.uk to find out about the job opportunities available in offshore wind across the UK. On the site, you can explore the interactive map to unlock stories from people working in the sector.
- Visit the websites listed below to find out about the kinds of courses available and for more information on careers and qualifications in the renewables sector. While the first two are fairly specific to the industry, the other three link to more general qualification finders:
- Energy & Utilities Jobs – job search and general information about power sector jobs
- City and Guilds – useful information on the Electrical Power Engineering qualification
- College and undergraduate courses – UCAS
- Master’s courses – FindAMasters
- PhD courses – FindAPhD
It is recommended that you consult your education officer for advice when choosing a qualification.
Courses for installers
For most installation and maintenance work, you will need to be an electrician or plumber holding recognised qualifications before you can undertake further training. That said, there is a huge range of courses available that will give you practical training experience and further recognised qualifications that are specific to renewable energy systems. Courses commonly include solar PV installation and maintenance for both domestic and larger buildings, solar PV roofer courses, relevant health and safety certification, unvented hot water courses (essential for plumbers moving into solar thermal hot water installations), domestic wind turbine installations, installation of biomass boilers and installation of ground source heat pumps.
Rainwater harvesting installation is the one area that doesn’t require you to be a qualified plumber/electrician (although you will need to work alongside a qualified plumber for the final connection). Training for this type of installation will give you a thorough background in the area, including how to collect, store and use the rainwater.
Courses for non-installers
Throughout each of the renewable sources sectors in the building arena there is a need for project managers, designers, engineers, office managers and other administrative staff, sales people, advisers and procurers. All of these roles give Service leavers an ideal opportunity to use the core skills they gained in the Forces, such as teamwork,
initiative, meeting targets, organisational ability, working under pressure, drive and clear communication skills.
Proof that you have some current knowledge of the renewables area will definitely be of interest to an employer. There are many basic short (one-, two- or three-day courses) that raise awareness, knowledge and understanding of the sector. These have often been designed with marketing, administrative staff and sales people in mind. Project management and managerial roles may also require a degree in a relevant area, and if you are planning this kind of further study there are specific degree or postgraduate courses available in renewable energy.
Various organisations offer apprenticeships with links to the renewables industry. These include EDF, Britain’s biggest generator of zero carbon electricity. Visit this page to find out more and stay up to date with current availability. Alternatively, use your favourite search engine to discover more options. Or browse the government’s apprenticeship website or Find Apprenticeships, both of which allow you to search for apprenticeship opportunities by area of interest and location.
Translate your skills
RenewableUK offers an extremely useful career mapping tool on its website, which includes information on industry roles, job duties, qualifications, training, experience and skills required, and helps you to visualise how the skills and qualifications you already hold could be mapped across to a new career in the renewables sector. Click here to try it out.
Use your ELC
Under the ELC scheme, a wide range of learning can be taken, provided it is offered by an approved provider listed on the ELCAS website and is at level 3 or above. For full details of how to make the most of your ELC, refer to the in-depth features elsewhere on the Quest website