Translate Oil and Gas Experience Into a New Clean Energy Career

What do a job in an oil field and a job at a wind farm have in common? Perhaps more than you might think. For oil and gas workers interested in a career change, a significant number of transferable skills can create alternative paths into the renewable energies sector.  

The Winds of Change 

In Alberta alone, the wind energy sector is poised to deliver $3.7 billion in spending between 2017 and 2030, according to a 2017 report from the Canadian Wind Energy Association. That spending is being driven by the Alberta Government’s plan to add 5,000 MW of new renewable energy capacity within that same timeframe. In addition to the environmental benefits that strategy will drive, it is also expected to create almost 15,000 job years of employment. According to the report, many of the skills required to develop wind projects, in occupations such as engineering, construction, operations, and maintenance, are quite similar with occupations in the oil and gas sector. 

Key wind industry occupations that have been identified related to project development include: 

  • Land Acquisition Specialist 
  • Civil Engineer 
  • Power Systems Transmission Engineer 
  • Environmental Scientist 
  • Project Engineer 
  • Resource Scientist 
  • Meteorologist

Jobs in construction that are expected to be created by Alberta’s wind energy sector projects include:  

  • Project Manager 
  • Industrial Engineer 
  • Electrical Engineer 
  • Quality Engineer

There will also be a need for construction workers to prepare project sites and trades such as cement masons, crane operators, welders, millwrights, electricians, and powerline technicians to assist in the installation of wind turbines. 

The ongoing operation and maintenance of wind energy sector projects will create a need for skilled experts to fill positions that will include: 

  • Asset Manager 
  • Site or Plant Manager 
  • Environmental Science Technician 
  • Wind Technician 
  • Meteorological Technician

The manufacturing of wind turbine components is probably the area with the most specialized positions that offer the least amount of skills overlap with the oil and gas sector. These positions include: 

  • Welder and related machine operator 
  • Structural metal and platework fabricator and fitter 
  • Fibreglass manufacturer 
  • Logistician 
  • Assembler and fabricator 
  • Aerospace Engineer 
  • Electrical Engineer 
  • Industrial Engineer 
  • Quality Engineer 
  • Design Engineer

Growing employment in the wind energy sector isn’t just happening in Canada. Across the border, Wind Turbine Technician is one of the fastest growing jobs in America, reflecting the fact that more and more of the country’s electricity is coming from wind turbines. 

The Sunny Side of Solar  

Wind isn’t the only renewable energy creating new job opportunities for oil and gas workers. The International Energy Agency predicts that the sun will be the world’s largest source of electricity by 2050.  As the solar sector grows, so to do solar-related jobs including occupations like electricians, electrical engineers, and power engineering technologists. The Canadian Solar Industries Association anticipates that by 2020, solar electricity will employ approximately 10,000 people per year in construction, manufacturing, operations, and maintenance occupations.  

In the United States, where the decreasing cost of solar panels has spurred record-setting industry growth, the solar workforce grew from 209,000 in 2015 to more than 260,000 in 2016. This is the fastest growth the Solar Foundation has seen in the seven years it’s been publishing this data. There are now nearly three times as many people working in the solar industry as there were in 2010, which is more than the number of employees at Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon combined. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the top-growing job classification over the next nine years will be solar photovoltaic installers. 

Take the Next Step 

If you’re interested in learning more about Ian Martin’s job opportunities in the renewable energy sector, view our current postings here. You can also sign up to receive regular job updates here, to ensure you’re informed about the latest opportunities in the sectors that align with your interests.