Making a career change from oil and gas to renewable energy

  • 14/04/2020
  • 13:05
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The global movement towards clean energy sources makes renewables an exciting sector to work in, and with the turmoil in oil prices affecting job security and prospects for workers in the oil and gas industry, many engineers are looking to move into the renewable energy sector.

Today, more than 100 thousand people in the UK work in renewable energy, with the majority in jobs related to wind energy. The renewables industry looks to continue to offer opportunities for talented candidates, leading to a range of career paths working at the cutting edge of science and technology for the greater good. What’s more, pay and benefits in renewables can be competitive, and with a typically younger workforce, there tends to be a greater emphasis on work-life balance in the renewables industry.

How can candidates make the switch – and what skills should employers be looking for?

For candidates looking to move from the oil and gas industry into clean energy careers, it can be a challenge. Renewable companies can be skeptical about a candidate’s motivation and commitment, fearing that they won’t stick around, and this in turn means companies may miss out on a huge wealth of talent. Employers may also be nervous about how well candidates from the oil and gas industries will fit in culturally, if they will eventually become unhappy about the salaries on offer, and if they’ll return to their original industry once the market improves.

But a move from oil and gas into renewables is far from unachievable, and engineering professionals will have a range of valuable transferrable skills to highlight to potential employers – at the application stage, start by reorganising your CV to call attention to the ones most relevant to renewables. Try to remove anything that only applies to oil and gas. If your whole career has been in oil and gas, you won’t want the experience section to be left completely blank - but you don’t need to mention specific rigs, for example, as this won’t mean much to renewable companies and is wasted space on your CV.

Martin Bird, Business Manager says “Renewables have been an exciting part of the engineering space for a few years now but our hope with this blog is to provide our experienced and trusted candidate base and of course, new readers, some true market knowledge in a time that may be uncertain for other aspects of the wider engineering world.”

Throughout the recruitment process, it’s important to effectively communicate your reasons for wanting to change sectors: try to focus more on the positive ‘pull’ factors for moving into renewables than the negatives or ‘pull’ factors for leaving oil and gas. Employers will also be looking to understand whether you are seeking a permanent move into the sector, so be ready to explain how you reached your decision – whether this was motivated by having a family to provide for, or that you found working offshore wasn’t for you, be honest about the factors involved.

Top transferrable skills

Health and Safety skills

Although each sector will tend to have slightly different standards, health and safety skills are highly transferrable between industries – additional training may just be required when changing industries.

Instrumentation skills

Some of the most technical and advanced instruments within energy are used in the oil and gas industry. To manage or engineer these instruments in other energy sectors, your experience in oil and gas will be an asset.

High Voltage skills

Aside from the high voltage work available within oil and gas, it can also be found in the renewables sector. Whatever your role, the safety procedures in high voltage environments are similar across all of the energy sectors, so knowledge and experience in this area can make for a smoother transition when changing industry.

Floating skills

Before offshore windfarms, offshore gravity-based concrete structures, typically used for drilling, storage or extraction, were unique to the oil and gas industry. These structures require expertise in engineering, construction, and project management. As windfarms now use the same structure, the renewables industry is in need of similar skills – and candidates with a civil engineering degree and experience with floating offshore structures will be attractive to many renewable companies.

Alongside the transferrable ‘hard’ or technical skills to highlight for potential employers, it’s also important to identify the soft skills which will help you succeed in the new role. Candidates with adaptability, excellent communication and interpersonal skills, and teamworking ability will be valued by employers, and showing you have these skills will give the hiring manager confidence that you’ll be able to make a smooth and successful transition into their team.

Between the skill shortages within the renewables sector, and number of highly talented candidates actively seeking work, a more positive move towards skills migration will bring many benefits for professionals and employers. if you’re looking to move into a renewable energy career, or need help with hiring new talent, get in touch with our expert consultants.