Lee Elwell, Associate Director – Energy at Jonathan Lee Recruitment shares his reflections from the Solar & Storage Show.
It was clear before I’d even entered the NEC’s Hall 5 that the solar and storage industries are booming. As the sector’s biggest event, there was no way we’d miss the Solar & Storage Show, but I was surprised at just how busy it was.
Almost 20,000 people attended over the three days to visit more than 450 stands (good luck to anyone who managed to see them all!) and listen to some of the 250+ speakers, sharing their expertise on the current hot topics – which included several talks about renewable energy recruitment.
Keynote talks were given by the Minister of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, Graham Stuart MP, and Chris Skidmore MP, who has led an independent review of net zero.
The Government’s commitment to the net zero agenda was confirmed, with solar and storage being confirmed as a key part of that journey.
Graham Stuart spoke about how the UK is a world leader in reducing emissions, while demonstrating that it is possible to cut emissions and grow the economy at the same time.
Chris Hewett of Solar Energy UK, official event partners, outlined how solar has grown phenomenally in the last 12 months, with 150,000 small-scale residential projects having been completed by September. This is on track to reach 200,000 by the end of the year.
At the same time, there are enough solar farms currently in the planning system to double the UK’s capacity and this is expected to treble with the next tranche of applications coming through. These will put the UK well on the road to reaching its target of 70GW solar energy capacity by 2035.
Locally, we’ve just seen plans approved for a new solar farm and co-located battery storage site in Shropshire, where we have an office, which is set to generate equivalent electricity for 11,300 houses.
Anglo Renewable’s 40-megawatt solar farm and 12-megawatt battery energy storage site in Ludlow is part of a £26m investment which it says will save 19,200 tonnes of CO2 every year.
What also came across during the show is that there are many more players in the market now, especially in terms of the companies supplying solar panels, batteries and associated technologies, and those installing them.
There’s no denying the market needs to grow if the UK is to meet its solar and battery targets.
The recruitment challenge
There were a few main challenges that were prevalent throughout the event, one of which is something we’ve been talking about (and providing solutions to) for quite a while now – and that’s skills and energy recruitment.
Chris Hewett, who is a joint chair of the Government’s Solar Taskforce, reported in his event opening speech that businesses are really struggling to fill vacancies this year.
The energy recruitment conundrum was also discussed during a panel debate by members of the Solar Taskforce, which has a specific group focusing on skills and the supply chain.
It was felt a cultural and behavioural shift is needed to start addressing the issue in the form of these specific challenges:
- How to attract people in the numbers needed
- How to make the sector more attractive than all the other sectors currently facing a skills shortage
- How to reward people enough that they want to stay
- Continuing to professionalise the sector to get more people qualified
Businesses were called upon to invest in training and apprenticeships, while the taskforce works on developing a dedicated apprenticeship scheme.
At the same time, panel members also stressed the need to recruit from outside the sector as well as within.
The Jonathan Lee solution
With 45 years of experience in technology, engineering and manufacturing recruitment, we’re well-positioned to help businesses navigate these evolving workforce needs.
Particularly in times of skills shortages, a more specialist and strategic approach to recruitment is required, with businesses needing to work harder and more creatively to attract the best candidates.
This often means a willingness to be more flexible, focusing on skills rather than titles and qualifications, knowing where to look for people with transferable skills, more targeted recruitment campaigns, planning ahead, and a competitive benefits package.
By partnering with Jonathan Lee Recruitment, you gain a dedicated team that is passionate about supporting your growth journey – not to mention access to our vast network of contacts.
To find out more about how we can support you with your energy recruitment needs, read about our energy recruitment service here, or give our Associate Director, Lee Elwell, a call on 01384 446154, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You might also be interested in this article where we discuss more about how planning for future recruitment needs can help unlock talent in the energy sector.