What is the wind industry doing in terms of skills and education to ensure a fair transition?

What is the wind industry doing in terms of skills and education to ensure a fair transition?

On November 16, WindEurope’s Deputy Managing Director, Malgosia Bartosik, spoke at the European Forum on Employment and Social Rights, organized by the European Commission. She showcased some of the initiatives the wind industry is taking to ensure it has the right talent to drive the energy transition.

Europe wants 510 GW of wind power by 2030, up from 190 GW today. This is a significant increase in the volume of projects that need to be installed in a very short time.

European industry will need to fill at least 150,000 new jobs, from the current 300,000 jobs to more than 450,000 in just 8 years.

This rapid development poses some challenges:

  1. Risk of skills shortage. Managers, engineers and technicians are currently the most in demand and vacancies are already difficult to fill.
  2. New skills required of people working in or entering industry, particularly in the areas of digitalisation, ICT, robotics, health and safety.
  3. Requalify workers from other sectors, such as coal mines. And improve the diversity and inclusiveness of the sector. This is essential if Europe wants the green transition to be a just transition.
  4. Harmonize training requirements and skills across the EU.

In recent years, the wind industry has taken various initiatives to address these challenges.

The first step was to analyze the skills needed in the wind sector to assess demand and standardize training at European level. Educational institutions, universities and training centers collaborated with wind energy companies and trade associations such as WindEurope to carry out this mapping exercise. EU-funded projects like SKILLWIND have helped develop modules and training programs based on these findings. Today, several organizations offer professional wind energy training, including dedicated teacher training and health and safety training.

But for the energy transition to succeed, it must be fair. It means making sure no one is left behind. The wind industry has launched several projects to reskill workers from other sectors. As coal mines close across Europe, former miners can be retrained to work in renewables. Their technical and professional skills are easily transferable to the wind energy industry, when equipped with the appropriate conversion training and certifications. In Romania, a new conversion program was recently launched in the coal town of Petrosani, in the Jiu Valley. It is part of a larger project aiming to requalify some 8,000 people in the valley by 2030 and benefiting from the European initiative “Coal regions in transition”.

In Poland, WindEurope, together with the Polish and Ukrainian Wind Energy Associations, is helping to connect Ukrainian refugees to Polish energy companies through the Work4Wind career support platform.

Another important set of initiatives is related to education. The wind industry must inspire the talents of tomorrow. Last year, WindEurope launched LearnWind, an online hub offering a variety of educational materials for children of different age groups. The youngest will be able to learn about climate change, renewable energies and the operation of wind turbines thanks to the illustrated book “Let The Wind Blow”, available in more than 30 languages. Older children and teens can read inspiring stories of 21 people working in clean energy in the new book ‘When I Grow Up’ – from why they are passionate about their work to the subjects they studied and the skills they needed to do what they do now.

The books also aim to encourage girls to consider careers in renewable energy. Despite some progress in gender balance, there is still a long way to go: of the 1.2 million people working in wind energy worldwide, just over a fifth are now women .

WindEurope also carried out a pilot project teaching wind energy to 12-year-old pupils in a primary school in Brussels. The program was co-created by a school teacher, two university professors and WindEurope. Also in Belgium, the Offshorewind4kids project teaches children basic engineering skills in a hands-on way, building floating wind turbine structures by the sea.

The current climate and energy security crises make all these efforts even more relevant. The green transition can only happen if there are the right people to make it happen. And in return, it can offer huge opportunities to Europeans in terms of education, training and careers. In her State of the Union address in September, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that 2023 would be the “European Year of Skills”. In this context, WindEurope has joined the Pact for Skills, making concrete commitments to ensure that the industry has the right workforce to ensure a timely energy transition.

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