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Careers: Plug-in growth

Consultants working in the energy sector are forming a picture of the skills they need for a rapidly growing market.

Planning of resources is being done carefully, for an area of business that demands a wide range of different disciplines and specialist skills. But there is now a lot of opportunity in power related projects for professionals with specific energy or environmental experience and for civil engineers in general.

“Since 2013 we have seen the back of a relatively quiet period in the energy sector and it’s now booming,” says Mott MacDonald oil and energy recruitment manager Rob Power.

“Hydro power, wind, nuclear and thermal all are going through the roof and in lots of new places globally.

“We’re competing for staff with clients, developers and contractors. The challenge is recognising that, and attracting people with the right package”

Rob Power, Mott MacDonald

“Wind and solar energy are growing in countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Hydropower in Pakistan is a big area of work for us, as are power projects in general in Africa, South America and Asia Pacific,” he adds.

Mott MacDonald is aiming at an annual growth rate of 20% to 30% within its energy division worldwide. “This is on top of a platform of what is a pretty big team already,” Power says.

Energy projects in the UK now include carbon capture and storage and combined cycle gas turbine developments, which are all related to big thermal power schemes.
Work related to on-shore and offshore wind farms is continuing in the UK, which is now the biggest market worldwide for wind power.

Power says the exact number of recruits Mott MacDonald will need is unclear, partly because any given energy project usually involves people from all over the business.

“We can call on technical expertise in geotechnical, structural and environmental teams. People from across the piece will tend to be involved in the case of just one offshore wind project,” he says, adding: “This has been a really big year for recruitment in the sector, however, running into hundreds.”

Candidate-led market

Supply of new recruits is “pretty good”, Power says. It is becoming a candidate-led market though, as there are more jobs available than applicants.

“We have got to maintain high quality, so have to be careful to recruit the right people, but we have to keep the numbers up too, and we’re not the only ones. We’re competing for staff with clients, developers and contractors. The challenge is recognising that, and attracting people with the right package,” Power adds.

WSP has also picked up on concerns over skills shortages, says the firm’s UK head of environmental planning Paul Reaston.

“Yes we are actively recruiting,” he says. “Overall there is a lot of positive drive in the energy market, but we are about creating a long term sustainable business. We are trying to be a lot more considered about this.”

He adds: “We are looking for opportunities where we can play to our competencies and combine our skills to apply them across different markets and types of projects.”

Technical background is not all that WSP is looking for in its recruits. For instance, the firm is seeking environmental impact assessment managers.

We need people that can get the right outcome for the project, those that can solve problems, using their technical skills to get the consents that clients want and projects that can be built,” Reaston says.

“The technical background is not crucial, it’s more of a problem solving mindset that’s needed. It may be civil engineers, but not necessarily.”

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