There's clearly a demand for engineering degrees, particularly mechanical engineers to work on the maintenance and design of wind power components. For the first time ever there's a career path for environmental engineers, as well, as we're witnessing a renaissance of excitement for a field that didn't even exist 5-8 years ago.

Careers in Alternative Energy Industries

Martin Pocs | DHR International

How has the mix of recruiting for wind vs. solar vs. biofuels changed over the past few years?
Wind has been a hot commodity for the last several years, and biofuels have been robust as well, while solar has exploded in popularity in the last two to three years. Our requests for executive searches for solar companies have increased significantly in the last 12 months, and that’s for leadership positions along all different parts of the supply chain. Solar is an especially attractive option as it’s more tangible and consistent, while wind has amplitude issues and biofuels can be costly. [Plus there are fewer grid issues with solar power, and you can establish a utility grade energy production facility.]
What types of skills and careers are the most sought after in the alternative energy industry?
There’s clearly a demand for engineering degrees, particularly mechanical engineers to work on the maintenance and design of wind power components. For the first time ever there’s a career path for environmental engineers, as well, as we’re witnessing a renaissance of excitement for a field that didn’t even exist 5-8 years ago. Of course the economics are not fully there yet; there are cheaper ways to deliver energy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile pursuit. It mirrors the rationale behind sending a man to the moon. At the time, many individuals and corporations questioned the wisdom in pursuing such a costly, seemingly extraneous mission. The point, as we can now see more than forty years later, is all of the strategic byproducts that emerged as a result of that research: rubber compounds, the computer microchip, and most importantly, young people excited to work in engineering related fields.  Now we have the same opportunity with pursuing renewable energy. Also, it’s something that young people are excited about and have a lot of passion for; for many of them, it’s not a job so much as a consuming passion and mission, and as such they will continue to drive legislation and popular opinion until it becomes a truly price competitive alternative. If we capitalize on this R&D like we did in the 60s with the space program, we will inevitably produce more meaningful strategic byproducts.
What is the difference in talent level/availability in the US vs. Europe?
Europeans have been going at this much longer than we have, which means their talent and skill levels are deeper than the average American’s.  Here it’s less common to have more than 3-4 years’ experience in renewable energy, whereas many European engineers have 10+ years experience, so if an American company requires that level of expertise, they’ll have to look overseas.  
Where are the “Centers of Excellence” in the United States?
The biggest by far is Colorado, due to the abundance of research facilities here – the  National Renewable Energy Lab, Colorado School of Mines and an entire CSU consortium have created the deepest reservoir of talent here in US. There’s also a large concentration of solar scientists in the Bay Area of California, too. They legislated for a mandatory percentage of power to come from renewable resources a long time ago, and all of their sunshine of course lends itself to solar, as well.
How has the availability/price of natural gas impacted alternative energy?
The recent discovery of enormous natural gas fields is significant -- we have abundantly more than expected, in fact about 100 years more than what was expected just 5 years ago. Obviously the price of natural gas has declined as a result, but the technology of renewable energy remains compelling.
Where (geographically) are you seeing the most growth and demand for talent in the industry?
Again, Colorado and California are the hubs, but this kind of investment is really starting to happen everywhere. More and more states are legislating for x% of energy to come from renewable sources, and the shift is occurring pretty naturally and consistently throughout the country.
Martin M. Pocs serves as Vice Chairman of DHR International and is the Managing Director of the firm’s Denver office.  As one of six owners of the firm, Martin has made significant contributions in shaping the success of DHR.  His search practice includes diverse industries such as telecommunications, manufacturing, financial services, real estate, advanced technology, consumer products, aerospace, software, bio-medical, mining, renewable energy and non-profits covering a variety of disciplines and general management positions within those industries. 
Martin made a very quick rise in being one of DHR’s top producers and is considered one of the world’s top 100 executive search consultants.  The chairman of DHR, David Hoffmann has said, “Martin’s professionalism, responsiveness, tenaciousness, sense of urgency and utmost dedication to his clients are themes that distinguish his performance.”
Prior to DHR, Martin had a 14 year career in human resources including experience with Sundstrand Corporation, a Fortune 500 aerospace and industrial products manufacturer, and Founders Asset Management, a financial services firm featuring no-load mutual funds.

The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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