A study from a group that recruits workers for energy sector jobs has found that as many as 39% of workers in the nascent green hydrogen industry are coming from the fossil fuel sector.
The report from WorldWide Recruitment Energy, released in January 2024 and the second edition of the study, compiled responses from more than 4,150 energy workers across 52 countries. The group in a statement said the respondents are a representative sample of a “talent migration that is redefining the rules of the game in the renewable [energy] job market.”
The report’s authors wrote that workers trained by oil and gas companies are transitioning to the hydrogen sector. “The ‘professions of the future’ are already here and essential,” the report said, “from experts in artificial intelligence to specialists in maritime technologies and carbon capture, the hydrogen sector is being built with innovative skills.”
The report said several questions remain unanswered about the workforce needed to support the hydrogen economy, notably whether current support for hydrogen-fueled energy will continue, or will be a passing trend. The authors also said market uncertainty extends to prices and price competitiveness, demand for the fuel, the ability to control production costs, and of course whether there will be enough workers with the necessary skills to support production.
The report said to date that have been “no strong price signals, real projects are few, and the ‘chicken or the egg’ dilemma remains unsolved.” But there is “growing interest among professionals in this sector,” with the volume of professionals who said they could interview for hydrogen sector jobs increasing four times compared to a previous study. The hydrogen job market has been helped by “a greater number of job specializations in the hydrogen chain and an increased offering of training in this field.”
Support from Fossil Fuels
The report’s authors said a striking finding “is that the oil sector stands out as the main driver of employment, contributing 39% of the new positions, even though only 16% of the respondents come from this industry. It represents a ‘talent migration that redefines the job market.’”
To learn more about the hydrogen economy, read “Moving Toward a Hydrogen Economy in the U.S. and Beyond” in the September 2023 issue of POWER.
One trend indicated by this second edition of the study is a progressive transition from projects “on paper” to projects “on the ground.” The growing demand and interest in “hard” profiles specialized in the execution, installation, or maintenance of projects point in this direction. There is also a need for professionals who will only be necessary in the advanced phases of projects, such as specialists in electrolyzers, procurement and logistics, pipelines, electromechanical safety, maintenance, transportation, software, or simply project managers who can handle these phases.
The authors said this edition also seems to verify that profiles with higher education, especially engineers and project planners, will continue to be the most sought after due to their versatility and the complexities and challenges posed by the new hydrogen industry. However, there is also a growing demand for technical profiles with medium or vocational training. This seems to be a genuine bottleneck despite the survey raising doubts about the supply of these profiles, confirming that the demand for them will be intensive and on a large scale.
The report also highlights the growing importance of what are called “mixed profiles” that possess technical knowledge but also business, financial modeling, or even commercial skills. This trend, which undoubtedly exists in other sectors, is particularly intense in this field, where large technological blocks such as energy, chemistry, industrial production, and logistics intertwine.
The study also detected, for the first time, the demand for “future” professionals who are already part of the present. Experts in artificial intelligence, energy and maritime technologies, carbon capture and storage, combustion experts, materials specialists, or automation are some of the professions that the future is beginning to demand, outlining the guidelines for the green hydrogen job sector. The need for increasingly complex, specialized yet versatile professionals suggests that this will be a sector requiring highly qualified and multifaceted individuals.
—Alejandro Rosell is a research manager for WorldWide Recruitment Energy.
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Author: Alejandro Rosell