Hiring tips for recruiting wind power engineers quickly
The huge demand to swiftly fill vacancies on wind power projects is a pressing issue for the sector – so what are the short term solutions?
There are few more dynamic sectors in the UK right now than wind energy. Renewables provide nearly a third of our power and half of this is generated by wind. This trend looks set to continue, with the UK government committed to a major expansion of offshore wind generation capacity by 2030, generating tens of thousands of highly productive, skilled jobs.
But how are wind companies going about finding the people to take on these roles – many of which need to be filled quickly?
Chris Godwin, Business Manager for Progressive Recruitment, says his team has been very active in trying to source candidates for the UK wind sector in recent months, recruiting talent in a wide range of areas for several major companies. Here he shares his insights and top hiring tips for employers:
One big player Progressive is currently supporting in the wind sector is a well-established energy builder abroad, but new to the UK market. So the company is starting from scratch employment-wise – which brings certain recruitment challenges, says Godwin.
“It started off with just 10-15 people here two years ago but has subsequently won quite a lot of work and has therefore expanded rapidly,” he explains. “The turnaround time to find candidates still needs to be fast, but the pool is mainly for onsite positions, so jobs are easier to fill,” he explains.
“The company builds substations that harness the electricity produced by wind farms. And it has needed people to help upgrade the National Grid network to enhance capacity,” he adds. “We have placed a range of construction personnel with them, including project managers, civil engineers and site managers. The workforce now numbers around 100 and looks set to double in the next two years.”
For this kind of rapid expansion to be successful and sustainable, the importance of quick resourcing decisions, fast hires and access to a wide talent pool can’t be underestimated.
Another way to help companies that need to build substations or wind farms is through resource partnering. Using this method, a recruiter can offer to take over the recruitment process for a client in its entirety and put a project team in place, which can arrange everything from PPE to cars, laptops to travel. “This is a big time saver,” says Godwin. “It basically means packaging all the work up and making it a bit easier for these companies to operate. Even if it all feels time-consuming to our clients to begin with, resource partnering speeds things up in the long run.
“A lot of the time clients will trust us to put the right people on board – rather than go through various interview stages of trying to get individual feedback from managers.”
Even removing smaller admin demands from a company can make a positive difference, explains Godwin. “The little things like aligning our billing systems to theirs means that rather than sending them a monthly billing invoice for each candidate, a company can be invoiced for 10 candidates in one go.”
Looking further afield
Companies should also consider being more open to hiring overseas. To plug the current gaps in the wind industry, recruiters are securing some remote resources far from the UK, particularly in engineering design.
At Progressive, the candidate pool stretches worldwide. “We are getting people in Albania, India and Poland, for example, to work on UK wind farms,” says Godwin. “But they are able to do it from home because they are just working on the engineering design.”
With the UK’s capacity to build wind farms increasing, the pressing need to fill roles rapidly is only going to increase. But being able to widen the recruitment pool with this sort of global reach can help businesses cope with demand. “Being in the design phase means we can look all over the world,” Godwin adds. “Because of the changes in work practices kickstarted by the pandemic, as long as we can give them a laptop and ensure they are paid, we can secure candidates that might not have been available before.”
One example is a wind turbine supplier supported by Progressive that allows many contractors to work remotely, which makes the job a lot easier, explains Godwin.
As a major company, it is currently working on a number of projects concurrently and is looking to take on potentially 200-300 contactors this year alone – a huge staffing pressure. “The company is five times as busy as it’s ever been,” says Godwin. “It needs highly technical engineers from all over the world to help design the high-voltage systems that get the electricity generated from wind farms into our homes.”
Progressive has placed a wide range of people with them in the design and IT fields, including site managers, planning engineers, civil engineers, commercial engineers and software engineers. “We have recruited candidates with lots of different skillsets,” notes Godwin.
Taking advantage of IR35
Godwin’s final top tip for sourcing candidates is through an awareness of IR35. He says the ongoing flux in the recruitment market created by last year’s introduction of this tax law – designed to combat tax avoidance by workers supplying their services to clients via an intermediary, such as a limited company or personal service company – can also work in some employers’ favour. Many contractors who previously operated via such an intermediary are now finding themselves placed ‘inside IR35’, meaning they are subject to PAYE.
“We’ve managed to help quite a few people who have been put on ‘inside IR35’ contracts,” explains Godwin. “Some companies no longer accept people working as limited companies, so we are managing to find new opportunities for many of these individuals, as they want to continue operating on this basis. If an employer can be flexible on this, then they are potentially widening their talent pool further.”
The wind industry’s need for quick recruitment is likely to remain a challenge for the foreseeable future. So this out-of-the-box thinking and broader mindset towards talent resourcing can be a big help. There could, however, be a little breathing space to come on candidate numbers. As more people get some wind farm experience under their belts, there will be a bigger pool of viable candidates to choose from. But the need to find people fast will continue.
For help finding candidates to fill a range of positions in the renewable energy sector, get in touch today!