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Comments from the Recruitment Front Line in New Energies for 2022

Author: Adam Carabetta

Published date: 2022/07

It’s certainly interesting times for the world of New Energies, and being able to comment from the recruitment frontline, this is no understatement. Looking back at the first half of 2022 in the placements we’ve made, the range of requests for hiring, and at the new players venturing in, one thing I can certainly say is that this industry has become incredibly diverse. Previously over the years, most clients that our business recruited talent for were from the renewable energy, power, and infrastructure sectors. Though as 2021 ended and this year started, we have begun experiencing firsthand, an increasing trend of companies outside the world of renewables becoming more interested in the energy transition.

Aside from this range of hiring diversity across industries, there is a growing movement from the Green Hydrogen players as the technology begins to find its way, and in a broader capacity, the specific push from Data Centre operators to be carbon neutral in a short time horizon, has led to a pivot for green skilled professionals. So, if you are interested in what we have to say about what the recruitment landscape in New Energies looks like, how its changed recently, and what to expect – read on!

Looking for “Green skills” across industries – The good and bad news

Formative Search is a recruitment leader in the New Energies, Legal, and ESG space, which in our approximate 6-year history, means we have typically recruited talent in project and business development, finance and investments, legal services, risk, compliance, and corporate governance. But due to the rush for companies to achieve net-zero emissions, we have seen a wide variety of firms, ranging from fortune 500 brands to regional conglomerates and even tech startups approaching us for talent in the fields of sustainability, ESG and decarbonization.

More and more companies from varying industries such as real estate, specialty chemicals, technology, maritime, and logistics, look to find their role in the new energy economy, and we have been involved in some notable recruitment activity that is worth sharing. The trend for hiring green talent could be attributed to a fear of missing out on reaching their coveted net-zero targets, pressure from major shareholders, internal activists, or even to appease public sentiment about becoming carbon neutral. Often though, we have observed after initial discussions with some of these new clients, that this pivoted behavior in recruitment has sometimes led to a lack of any concrete hiring strategy or roadmap. The solution they generally seek to this problem is find the people that have the relevant experience and track record to create this for them.

However, in my opinion, I believe this approach has opened a can of worms for many of these firms, as without the correct strategy, established vision, or clear pathway shown, there is the risk of misaligning the needs of the business with the wrong people. Unfortunately, we have seen in various career moves that have occurred, professionals we’re pushed somewhat to the side, not allocated the needed resources, or even over promised in their job scope.

Green Hydrogen makes a splash

There is only one direction which Green Hydrogen will continue to move and it’s not going to be backwards. Looking from the candidate perspective when it comes to this emerging new technology, it's becoming more common for talent to enquire about the hiring company’s vision and commitment to the renewable fueled gas when assessing their career move. Though most notably, we have observed a steady increase in demand for candidates who have some early market experience with this technology either in a strategy or operational capacity. What we have realized specifically, is that candidates with the ability to create an eco-system to support the Hydrogen value chain, are coveted by advisories, major engineering outfits as well as the energy majors that are directly involved in building teams and entire businesses in this arena.

A lot of the momentum in this space has also come from the larger Australian mining groups as they expand into Asia hoping to create an export market for Green H2, and from the major power players in the Middle East. Across the MENA region, we have seen aggressive efforts from regional major power and energy firms who are diversifying into green hydrogen to draw experienced talent from around the globe. With a sudden spike in demand for these rare and in demand professionals, we expect to see some challenges in the talent gap, especially in such a frontier market. Australian talent may wish to relocate to Asia to plug these gaps, or more mature markets in Europe to MENA. Ultimately we expect to see continued efforts from major energy corporations as they ramp up their efforts to recruit key talent in Green Hydrogen.

Tech meets Energy

Perhaps one of the more interesting sectors right now when it comes to job creation, is the technology sector and how they are introducing themselves to what is labelled “green digital Infrastructure.” I think it is fair to say that almost every business in the data center industry is considering going entirely green, and tackling the challenges that come with this ambition.

As the Technology industry continues to be the leader in Corporate Power Purchase Agreements, the partners, service providers, and suppliers to this charge ahead, fully recognize the importance of having net-zero data centers. From our recent experience here, we have noticed our client’s rising interest in finding talent in a sweet spot which is in a meeting point of technology and renewable energy. And when it comes to the need for specific expertise, some of the most urgent hires in the market are for corporate and project development professionals who can facilitate the work required for green data centers.

While we have found that certain organizations such as those classified in “big tech”, generally have fairly established sophisticated hiring strategies for attracting green talent, there may be a game of ‘catching up’ to play with multinationals in more slower moving industries. We no doubt expect to see additional requests from Climate Tech start-ups as they intend to bulk up their ESG Auditing, Carbon reporting, and Sustainability practices, or from larger corporates themselves as they navigate their internal journey to become net-zero and decarbonize challenging elements of their organizations.

What lays ahead and what hiring companies should think about

There really has been a richness to the varying aspects of the recruitment landscape in New Energies over the past 6 to 9 months, and with a ton of exciting things happening, I felt it was important to highlight the above. But where it comes to my potential concerns, one clear area is the uptick in feedback from our clients when expressing difficulty in attracting relevant talent.

Apart from the often-apparent reasons due to shortage of skills in the market, heightened competition, etc., I have noticed a surprising hesitation from the candidate side. And this apprehension from certain individuals when being approached directly or indirectly from a courting employer, can be attributed to a lack of clear strategy from the business. As I highlighted above, what I am mentioning here is how companies can fail or succeed in securing key talent to join them in their energy transition journey.

The move can fall to pieces when there is no real commitment to creating a good roadmap, vision, or even strategy for achieving the net-zero, sustainability, or decarbonization agenda. And unless the organization has shown a deep sense of commitment to creating this before beginning an interview process, the experienced talent who know this industry are just frankly put off. Until this dynamic changes, I would expect continued challenges being faced from these companies when adding the right people. But I am optimistic about this ever-changing landscape, and we are already beginning to witness more attempts from companies to ensure they go to candidates with a genuine sense of commitment to achieving Net-Zero, Decarbonization, and becoming more Sustainable as a business.

If you have interest in getting in touch with me or anyone in the New Energies, Legal, and ESG teams at Formative Search, please connect with me at adam@formativesearch.com or welcome@formativesearch.com.

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