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8 Tips for Construction Pros Looking to Change to a Wind or Solar Career

With a heightened awareness of climate change and a government commitment to renewable energy, there are an abundance of career opportunities in wind and solar energies. Not only are jobs in these “green energy” fields currently in high demand, but there aren’t enough candidates to fill the roles.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Solar photovoltaic (PV) installer jobs are projected to grow 50.5% from 2019 to 2029; projections are even higher for Windtech employment at 60.7%. The problem is there is a huge skills gap, since renewable technology is still in its infancy. Recruiters are looking to construction industry professionals to take up the reins.

While there are many experienced construction workers with traditional skills, like electricians and engineers, many feel they may not have any relevant experience and can’t make the leap to these newly created jobs. The good news is that many renewable energy employers are open to willing candidates who have a strong background in construction and a desire to learn. If you’re seeking a construction career jump to a new specialization that has longevity and job security, here are some tips to help you break into a wind or solar career.

Focus on culture fit

With so many different company cultures and styles out there, one of the most important ways to match with an employer is to find one that aligns with your values. And that works both ways since hiring managers and recruiters are always on the lookout for construction professionals who have a great attitude and strong potential to be a fit for their clients’ organizations.

Illustrate a willingness to learn

One of Planet Forward’s renewable energy clients reported that a former electrician they recently hired for a totally new kind of job had a seamless transition. The winning formula, they said, was that the employee was highly motivated and willing to learn. Many renewable energy employers are willing to train, and don’t expect candidates to come on board with all the required skills from day one. When you’re seeking work in wind or solar, as long as you don’t oversell your skills on your resume and are upfront in your cover letter and in your interviews that you don’t necessarily have direct experience but that you’re a fast learner, renewables companies may be willing to take a chance on you.

Identify your transferable skills

Many people who work in oil, gas or other fossil fuels hold positions like project management, electrical and mechanical engineering, field or maintenance technicians or utility construction. If you’ve done this type of work, you may not realize it, but you have developed skill sets that can transfer over to clean energy. For example, electricians can usually adapt well to a job working with PV systems, while field techs could become excellent installers. In addition, depending on your construction projects, you’ve probably already been using some environmentally-conscious best practices.

Play up your soft skills

Are you someone who’s managed other people? Do you communicate well? Are you highly organized or great with data and technology? Are you comfortable using a variety of tools, machinery or technology? These traits can serve you well within a renewable energy, solar or wind career.

Be willing to travel or relocate

Because of the nature of solar and wind energy, many of the available jobs are located in certain geographic areas. According to The Solar Foundation’s 2020 National Solar Jobs Census, California ranks number one for the most solar jobs where there are 231,474 employees in this profession. Other states with large concentrations of solar jobs include Florida, New York, Texas, Massachusetts, Arizona and Utah. Think about where you might like to live and do a targeted search to see if wind and/or solar opportunities are available.

Look into certifications

If you have time to invest in your own training, consider pursuing a certification in a renewable field or joining a professional association. Here are a few examples that are available and worth researching:

Do some networking

With so many jobs listed everywhere from Monster to LinkedIn to Indeed, and more, take some time to look at the various opportunities as well as read up on the company leaders and employees. You can even connect with some of them via professional networking platforms to ask questions about the company and the industry. LinkedIn also has several groups dedicated to clean and renewable energy professionals. Finally, don’t hesitate to talk to your Planet Forward recruiter about options. While our clients do engage with us to provide experienced talent, we have an insider’s perspective of the market and may know of companies that are open to construction professionals who want to switch specializations.

Know the physical requirements

Depending on the type of work you’re seeking, there may be physical requirements like lifting or operating heavy machinery. For example, wind could involve a lot of climbing and working outside. Of course, there are a variety of positions from manufacturing to installation to management. The goal is to find work that is in your comfort zone.

Switching into a renewable energy career might seem like it’s out of reach, but you are probably more prepared than you think. With wind and solar employers desperate for talent and willing to train, it could be a good time to start connecting with recruiters to learn more about these futureproof careers.

Photo credit: Canva

by Sam Tio, Business Development Manager, Planet Forward