Almost one in three global energy professionals is considering making the leap into the technology sector in the next three years. With the rise of green technological innovations, along with the trends of remote working and cyber security demands, the energy transition is upgrading the workforce with digital and technical skills.
As the energy sector evolves, broader STEM industries shouldn’t overlook energy professionals in the war for in-demand tech talent. Airswift’s latest Global Energy Talent Index (GETI) charts the biggest trends of 2022, when it comes to technical capabilities of the energy workforce—and where that talent might go in the coming years, Fig. 1.
Renewables boost sees tech innovation boom! The energy landscape is rapidly evolving, and workers in the sector play a critical role in driving technological innovation. For example, oil and gas professionals have been repurposing infrastructure to make way for renewable innovations, Fig. 2. In fact, nearly half of all respondents in this year’s GETI report identified the move to cleaner energy among the greatest opportunities facing the sector over the next three years.
As Johanna Schmidtke, lecturer at the University of Colorado at Denver’s Global Energy Management program, notes within the report, “The convergence of energy around renewables opens the door to a wave of new engineering techniques from conventional sectors, such as offshore oil and gas, which have clear applications for renewables sub-sectors like offshore wind and hydrogen.”
Traditional energy businesses already have many of the engineering capabilities that renewables and STEM businesses need. So, there is an opportunity to mass-introduce techniques and tools into new markets, such as tech.
Giants, including Amazon, Google and Facebook, continue to be the biggest corporate buyers of renewable energy, making this a natural switch for workers in the sector. Indeed, after powering the green revolution, could workers transitioning from energy be primed to spur the tech sector’s very own workforce evolution?
How do energy workers have a leg up in tech? The energy industry is well and truly into the digital age. For instance, AI is increasingly being relied upon for grid management and efficiency, predictive analysis, increased production, energy trading and more. So, perhaps it’s no wonder that over a quarter of executives state that AI-enabled processes are being widely adopted in energy businesses. Additionally, research from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) shows that the pandemic has accelerated approaches for using AI in the energy sector.
It is clear that the energy sector’s forward-facing approach to digitization and automation is opening the market up to new possibilities and jobs. Based on 2020 estimates, the market for digital oil and gas solutions could grow up to 500% by 2026, creating an even larger demand for tech roles in competitive areas, such as cloud computing.
Furthermore, the GETI report cites the increasing prioritization of ESG factors, alongside pandemic-driven remote working trends, as key accelerators to energy’s tech transformation and the demand for talent. As a result, energy workers who are the most in demand tend to possess strong skills in data analytics, cloud technology, and system implementation and integration. These are skills highly sought out across wider STEM industries.
It’s competition time when it comes to pay, stability and opportunity. The tech sector is one of the few areas able to match oil and gas when it comes to remuneration, and it can be seen as a fashionable choice among workers to transition into. In Alberta, Canada, for instance, former oil and gas workers are pivoting to careers at technology companies in droves. Engineers are transferring from equipment to data and technical engineering. Workers have cited stability as a primary motivation for transitioning into the tech industry, in addition to pay and simply finding it a natural fit for their experience and skillsets.
Globally, workforce shifts are in full swing. As leaders of innovation, the energy workforce has proven its fluidity, competitiveness and ambition when it comes to technical upskilling—and the door is wide open for talent to jump through.
A 17-year staffing veteran, SAM CROSS says it was the idea of helping people through the most important moves of their lives that originally drew him to the industry. Having worked entirely in sales and building sales teams during that time, Mr. Cross is now CRO & SVP, Americas, for Airswift, which provides workforce solutions to the global process, infrastructure, and energy markets. Most recently, he has led the company through the current Covid-19 and market impacts, helping to secure the future of Airswift and setting it up to be less single market-reliant. Looking forward, Mr. Cross predicts digitalization and lower cost of service will be the future for staffing, and he feels trusted strategic relationships will come back stronger after the recent market downturn. “It’s at hard times, people value the relationships they have and delivery they can rely on, versus commoditization.”
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- ConocoPhillips’ Greg Leveille sees rapid trajectory of technical advancement continuing (February 2019)