It’s a generational issue. Y and Z generations are more interested in renewable energy, explains Charles-Antoine de Theux, CEO of Heliosmart, a company specialising in renewable energy. “The values that revolve around the renewable, the sustainable and the circular economy are values that correspond well to those of the younger generations. They evolve in a completely different logic than that of previous generations. “It is a reality, issues related to sustainable development (second hand, flexitarism, etc.), climate change and new energies have taken hold of current events and societal concerns. Marianne Celis, HR Business Partner at Elia, observes an “energy sector in transition” and “in constant evolution”.
In this movement, the desires of certain profiles in search of employment are disrupted. This is particularly the case for young engineers, as Dorsan Piret, HR business partner for the consulting firm Greenfish, specialising in renewable energies, testifies: “We have a lot of young engineers applying for jobs with us. And many of them have no experience when they knock on our door. In this context, it is extremely important to understand the motivations of these candidates. We realize that many of them want to work in renewable energy or energy efficiency, that this is their primary motivation. “Universities have followed this trend since, for example, ULB offers a master’s degree in environmental science and management while Agro-Bio Tech in Gembloux has set up a master’s degree in environmental science and technology.
A recurring theme
These desires are reflected in a national and international agenda that outlines the future of the energy sector, with, for example, the climate-energy plan decided at European level, which forecasts a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. This is enough to create vocations among an engineering audience that is sometimes far from the green energy sector. “There are many people who pass through our society who have a background in a more traditional sector – I am thinking in particular of the nuclear sector – and who decide to change to renewable energy. First because it is a sector of the future, but also because it makes sense,” explains Dorsan Piret.
A career choice that is not lacking in relevance in view of the increase in employment in this sector. Renewable energy activities employed 9.8 million people worldwide in 2016, almost twice as many as in 2012, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena). The latter also argues that, by 2030, the 24 million jobs threshold could be reached in this sector. Then, according to Irena, China, Brazil, the United States, India, Japan and Germany are the countries with the highest number of jobs in the sector.
Opportunities for candidates
Where is Belgium in all this? To take the analysis further, it is necessary to look at the different trades that revolve around renewable energies. Starting with photovoltaics. “A few years ago, I noticed that many professionals were interested in photovoltaics,” points Charles-Antoine de Theux. But this was before the entry into force of the new Walloon support regime for the sector at the beginning of 2014. Since then, these “vocations” have become less frequent.
As for the other specialities of the sector, a form of imbalance persists, as Dorsan Piret points out: “Among young people, we notice that the desires are mainly centred around careers in energy efficiency and renewable energies. Solar energy and wind power are very attractive. But in addition, other positions remain little known to candidates. I am thinking in particular of the waste management sector, which presents magnificent challenges. I think this is due to the fact that much more is being said about the first sectors mentioned. »
Jobs of the future
The energy sector is frequently looking for profiles in shortage: civil and industrial engineers or technical graduates. While these shortages are no exception in the renewable sector, it seems that recruitment difficulties are less pronounced. This is due in particular to the presence on this labour market of workers who wish to find meaning through their professional activity. And this career choice seems relevant since, on a global scale, Belgium is one of the main investors when calculating the amounts invested per capita in renewable energies.