What is the wind industry doing in terms of skills and education for a just transition?

What is the wind industry doing in terms of skills and education for a just transition?

On 16 November, WindEurope Deputy CEO Malgosia Bartosik spoke at the European Employment and Social Rights Forum organized by the European Commission. She described some of the initiatives the wind industry is taking to ensure the right talent is in place to enable the energy transition.

By 2030, Europe wants wind power to reach 510 GW, up from 190 GW currently. This is a significant increase in the number of items that need to be installed in a very short amount of time.

European industry needs to fill at least 150,000 new jobs, from 300,000 today to more than 450,000 in just eight years.

This rapid development presents several challenges:

  1. Risk of skills shortages. Managers, engineers and technicians are currently the most in-demand, with vacant positions already hard to fill.
  2. Those working or entering the industry need new skills, especially in digital, ICT, robotics, health and safety.
  3. Retrain workers from other sectors, such as coal mining. And improve diversity and inclusion in the sector. This is essential if Europe is to make the green transition a just one.
  4. Harmonize training requirements and skills across the EU.

Over the past few years, the wind industry has taken various initiatives to address these challenges.

The first step is to analyze the skills required in the wind energy industry in order to assess demand and regulate training at European level. Educational institutions, universities and training centers collaborated with wind energy companies and trade associations such as WindEurope on this mapping effort. EU-funded projects such as SKILLWIND have helped develop training modules and programs based on these findings. Today, several organizations offer vocational training in wind energy, including specialized teacher training and health and safety training.

But for the energy transition to succeed, it must be just. That means making sure no one is left behind. The wind industry has launched several projects to retrain workers from other industries. With coal mines closing across Europe, ex-miners could be retrained to work in renewable energy. Their technical and professional skills are easily transferable to the wind energy sector if the correct conversion training and certification are provided. In Romania, a new reskilling program was recently launched in the Kutani coal city of Petrosani. It is part of a wider project to reskill some 8,000 people in the valley by 2030 and benefit from the EU initiative ‘Coal regions in transition’.

In Poland, WindEurope, together with the Polish and Ukrainian Wind Energy Association, is connecting Ukrainian refugees with Polish energy companies through the Work4Wind career support platform.

Another important set of initiatives is related to education. The wind energy industry needs to inspire tomorrow’s talent. Last year, WindEurope launched LearnWind, an online hub offering a variety of educational materials for children of all ages. Young children can learn about climate change, renewable energy and how wind turbines work with Let the Wind Blow, an illustrated book in more than 30 languages. Older children and teens can read the inspiring stories of 21 people working in clean energy in new book ‘When I Grow Up’ – from why they’re passionate about what they do to the subjects they study and what they need skills to do what they do now.

The books also aim to encourage girls to consider a career in renewable energy. While some progress has been made in terms of gender balance, there is still much work to be done: today just over one in five of the 1.2 million people working in wind energy globally are women.

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

Today’s climate and energy security crises make all these efforts even more important. A green transition can only happen if the right people are in place to make it happen. In return, it could offer Europeans great opportunities in 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”. Against this backdrop, WindEurope has joined the Skills Pact, making concrete commitments to ensure that the industry has the right workforce for the timely energy transition.

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