Supporting the next generation of renewable energy engineers

  • Posted: 21 Nov 2019

The UK renewables sector is currently experiencing a severe skills shortage.

According to an Energy and Utility Skills report, there are not enough students studying relevant STEM subjects at A Level and University level in the UK to meet the demand of new roles in renewable energy, while analysis of current Apprenticeships relevant to the industry also shows a shortfall. The offshore wind sector alone is likely to see a 260% increase in jobs by 2032. In addition, the report suggests that in the next five years there will be 600,000 positions which will need replacing due to staff retirement; there are simply not enough young graduates entering the field to replace them. It is therefore important for our sector to do what we can to inspire more people to pursue careers in renewable energy.

So, on 4 November we were particularly pleased to welcome a group of engineering students from the University of Bristol to Avonmouth, to give them a behind the scenes look at an operational onshore wind farm. We also wanted to provide some insight into what skills go into developing renewable energy projects and careers options available.

Operations Manager, Adrian, talked to the students about each stage of development, from financing the project and gaining planning permission, to construction and operations. Many of the students had not visited a wind farm before and enjoyed learning more about the turbines.

Matt, a Mechanical Engineering student said:

"I’m interested in renewable energy because it is the way forward for supplying energy to the world, with lots of new technology and new ways of thinking about solving the problems of making power. I think what I’ve learnt today is all very interesting and generally finding out more about how wind turbines work. Because when you see them around you think - ahh yeah they just spin and make electricity - but learning more about the finer details about how they work is quite cool."

It was really rewarding to be able to open our doors to what could be the next generation of wind farm engineers. Two of the students visiting were interested in pursuing careers in renewable energy after they graduate and told us about what interest them about the field and about their visit to Avonmouth.

Tania studies Engineering and Maths and chose her course as she has always liked maths, and engineering is the application of maths in the real world.

“Renewable energy is obviously really good for the environment and I think it’s the way forward for how we should push all of our energy into the future. I’ve actually learnt quite a lot about wind farms because I’d never seen it in person. I learnt that there is a lot more to it, like they’re a lot more intelligent than I thought, how they can turn, how it’s all done. I thought people were manning them, but it is all done on its own. There’s loads of sensors and quirky things like that. I want to go into sustainable energy in developing countries, so yeah wind turbines are really helpful as hopefully I’ll be working with them in the future.”

Archie studies Mechanical and Electrical Engineering and chose his course because he always enjoyed doing practical things with cars and machinery and wanted something which would allow him to apply his skills and take it further.

“Renewable energy is a massively growing field and I think that’s quite exciting, there’s still so much that’s still to be done with it. And you sort of feel like a lot of other industries are sort of saturated like they’ve run their course. Whereas with renewables you get the impression that there is so much left to do. I’ve learnt quite a bit today about this specific site and how the economics of financing a site like this and how actually getting the ball rolling. After uni I’d like to go into renewables and possibly electric car design is something I’m quite interested in.”

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Engineering students looking inside a wind turbine
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Engineering students learning about an onshore wind farm