Finding Talent for Today’s Green Jobs

by | Apr 27, 2011

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Given companies’ continued interest in implementing sustainable practices, the opportunities for “green” jobs are greater than ever before. And though some may think these jobs require a new skillset, at their core they appeal to those with excellent math and science skills, specifically engineers. To be clear, environmental engineers certainly have specialized training, but many of today’s “green” positions are really just retooling of traditional engineering jobs, whether it’s an electrical engineer redesigning a smart grid or a mechanical engineer working on fuel-cell technology.

Some of the more popular “green” jobs today are:

Solar Power Contractor: More and more people are turning to solar to power their homes and businesses. States such as New Jersey and Florida offer rebates or incentives around choosing solar energy, which makes it a smart choice for the environment and the checkbook—and also for a career.

Wind Turbine Installer: The Pacific Northwest and California are home to many wind turbine farms that account for an increasing portion of power generation, and there will continue to be a demand for all professionals with this relevant experience. Because the career and technology is still relatively new, the opportunity for growth and advancement in this field is strong.

LEED Certified Engineer: Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Certification is an internationally recognized method of implementing and constructing green buildings, homes, and spaces. Engineers with this certification can work in a traditional engineering setting, but the LEED distinction will become more valuable as awareness around making buildings more environmentally friendly grows.

Hybrid Vehicle Technician: The past decade has seen the desire for Americans to own green cars increase and given the rising gas prices, more and more people will turn to hybrid vehicles. From testing lithion batteries for cars to the specialized assembly of the actual vehicles, there is no shortage of jobs in this area.

Environmental Protection Specialist: As the green movement grows larger, the demand for these professionals is expected to grow greatly. While many in this field work for the government, more and more businesses are bringing on specialists to work or consult on a variety of projects which may often include construction and development.

Indeed, nearly all of these jobs require some sort of engineering expertise. Ironically, however, while there is now an abundance of engineering-type jobs in this country, particularly as the country continues to be focused on sustainable efforts and “green” implementation, the talent pool is simply not as plentiful. Those who actually choose to study engineering in college – a decreasing amount – are not pursuing such positions once they graduate, many times gravitating instead to more trendy jobs in technology. or more lucrative ones in consulting and finance.

Yet, the current generation is just as concerned with doing good as they are with doing well for themselves in terms of earning a living; for those with the right skills, a job that combines engineering with a green focus could be the answer.  But given the fact that the war for talent in this area is fierce, employers need to think about the most effective ways to reach and entice this valuable, highly-skilled talent.  One way is to strike strategic partnerships with local universities to build a pipeline of future talent. Exposing engineering students to the different possibilities for their degree while they are just beginning their college career could help in convincing those students to actually stick with engineering once they graduate. If your company isn’t already doing so, consider developing an internship program that combines real-life experience with education and development and even professional mentorship from the company’s senior leadership.

In addition, a number of environmental jobs are concentrated in certain parts of the country, such as the Northwest (for solar and wind energy) and the Midwest (for automotive and other green industrial engineering projects).  Yet, talent for these types of jobs can come from anywhere.  Offering a generous relocation and incentive package is a way to lure the best talent from around the country. And the incentives don’t just have to be financially based. For example, offer prospective employees the chance to volunteer one day a week with their favorite environmental nonprofit, so they can further combine their personal interests with work.

Finally, work/life balance is always a serious consideration for employees—and those in the green sector are no different. It often can be a deciding factor in choosing one job over the other. If your company offers flexible working arrangements, for example, make sure to highlight that as a perk.

The ongoing rise of green jobs will continue to fuel an already high strong demand for highly skilled talent. Finding ways to build and cultivate relationships with those who have the right background —especially engineers—is the key for companies to remain competitive in this growing sector.

Diana Fitting is Adecco Engineering & Technical senior vice president.

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