5 Advanced Ways You Can Help Fill the Wind Turbine Talent Gap

Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wind turbine service technicians will experience the most significant surge in job growth over the next 10 years, outpacing every other profession.

Thank the continued pivot toward alternative green energy, which will lead to record growth in wind energy generation in the coming decade, starting in 2022, analysts predict.

That’s fantastic news, says Peter Church, Chief Human Resources Officer at AVANGRID, a leading sustainable energy company.

One caveat: There are only about 7,000 wind-turbine technicians nationwide.

“If you hired every single worker in the U.S. who works on wind turbines today, there still wouldn’t be enough to cover what you need to build these upcoming projects,” Church says.

“Therein lies your first breadcrumb about labor,” he adds, “because here, we haven’t built nearly as many turbines as other countries have, especially offshore, and if we’re going to expand as we plan, where are we going to find the labor?”

He’s not asking for a friend.

AVANGRID is leading a joint venture on Vineyard Wind 1, America’s first commercial-grade offshore wind farm. The 800-megawatt project—enough to power more than 400,000 homes—is being built in federal waters off the coast of Massachusetts. It’s also the first of many to contribute to President Joe Biden’s target of 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030.

“If you think about that history class you took in elementary school where they talked about the gold rush at Sutter’s Mill, which had this gravitational pull of people pining for opportunities out to West, that’s offshore wind today,” Church says. “Offshore wind is seen as the next frontier of renewable energy. So, companies and people are looking to get in on this. It’s a huge business—huge and new.”

One that’s going to create countless jobs, starting at AVANGRID, where Church says they plan to hire 280 offshore wind technicians in 2022.

It’s a challenge he’s ready to take on.  So, too, is a trusted partner: GattiHR’s TalentBoost.

Here are five ways they’ll do it together, based on his prior experience with the high-velocity talent management and acquisition platform.

Get in Front of the Right Audience Fast

What channels do you use to source a hard-to-find skillful candidate in a far-off region?

“A recruiter might suggest posting the job on Indeed or LinkedIn,” Church says. “But if I’m not a person on Indeed or Linkedin, I won’t see it, and many technicians won’t.”

Here is where TalentBoost shines brightest.

“TalentBoost utilizes advanced technology to create a multimodal approach on the front end that, based on the characteristics of your job, allows you to reach all the audiences you need in the specific locations you require in a more accelerated way,” Church says. “The approach is so comprehensive, surgical and fast that it allows your posting to be featured more prominently among targeted audiences in less time.”

For example, he says that this strategy might include posting on hyperlocal job boards or classified advertising websites in small rural towns. In college communities, it could be getting the word out on alumni networks or at job fairs.

“Whatever those different modes are to create greater visibility and accelerated reach, TalentBoost does an avalanche of all those things,” Church says.

Automate the Right Hire and Free Up Your HR Department

AVANGRID initially hired TalentBoost to help staff customer service centers throughout New England. Church says the company was looking to address the quality and speed of its hires.

“We bought in TalentBoost as a sort of proof of concept around our call center jobs,” he added. “Let me tell you—they blew me away.”

Using a scientific approach to talent optimization that combines advanced search technology with data-driven workforce analytics, Church says TalentBoost delivered “more better-quality candidates” and cut their managers’ time and involvement in the process by 80%.

Furthermore, TalentBoost fast-tracked AVANGRID’s hiring process, reducing its cycle time from about 70 days to as few as 14.

Here’s the trick: Moments after a candidate applies for a job, TalentBoost launches a rapid process that includes two detailed video interviews and an emailed questionnaire, none of which involves the client’s HR team.

“The recruiters bundle the interviews, screens them and narrows the list,” Church says. “Then, by day three—which would ordinarily be week three for us—they are packaging the two best candidates for you to consider or telling you outright the single best candidate you should hire.”

The 25-year HR veteran says he’s never seen faster, more efficient results.

“There’s a magic to it,” he says. “Think about the benefits. More opportunity for managers to allocate their time differently. More engaged candidates. The quality of the candidates is significantly improved. How much is all that worth?”

A lot, it turns out. AVANGRID is now scaling TalentBoost to other areas of its business.

“Right now, we’re in the process of looking at how to bring this capability across our renewables side, specifically in recruiting wind technicians, many of which are geographically dispersed,” Church says.

Create, Don’t Find, Your Next Wind-Turbine Team

Even with the best-reaching capabilities, you’re not going to recruit a workforce that has worked on 15 other offshore wind projects “because there’s haven’t been any other offshore wind projects,” Church says.

Instead, he says, it might be wise to tap other energy sectors, including onshore wind production and traditional energy production like coal, oil and natural gas.

“Why this is so exciting is that it is requiring us to look at the reskilling of certain resources,” he says. “It’s making us think about the global landscape, see where the talent is and think about how we can retrain them for the epic amounts of opportunities coming in renewables.”

That’s easier said than done.

The skillset requires by traditional energy generation differs from wind, Church says, though some attributes—like dealing with inclement weather and climbing and reclimbing large structures—match.

The composition of onshore wind turbines also varies from offshore turbines. Offshore turbines have more unknown variables and complex engineering, all underscored by their sheer size. “The turbines offshore are the size of the Eiffel Tower,” Church says.

TalentBoost is helping AVANGRID tap into its reskilling capabilities in two ways, Church says.

First, they’re helping AVANGRID build out “the profiles we need” to find more recruits with transferable skills.

Second, they’re distributing important retraining literature via its online learning management platform, TalentBoost University.

Improve Your Onboarding, Safety and Speed to Productivity

TalentBoost offers a fast, superior onboarding process that further frees your HR team. Advantages include automating employee benefits, payrolls, contracts, device sign-outs, background checks and reference verifications.

All are important, Church says. But TalentBoost University is his favorite.

The platform with high-quality courses from more than 130 global partners offers advanced digital solutions for boosting speed to productivity.

“If I have an opportunity to have somebody be more productive by the end of the first week instead of the end of the second week, then by the end of week six, I only needed four weeks,” Church says. “That means I got two more weeks of productivity at a higher level of proficiency and was able to reallocate other resources faster.”

It also means improved safety in an extremely physically demanding profession.

“There’s a lot of education we can give to better orient people about the safety protocols we have,” Church says. “That means talking about some of the risks associated with offshore work and how to be prepared for them. The more you can orient colleagues at any level about the mission, purpose and way the company operates, the better their value.”

TalentBoost provides employers the digital distribution channels they need to deliver new hires content about their new role and tactics for improving productivity and safety—all without the client’s HR team needing to put in work.

“If you have something that could make you so much more effective on day one, right off the bat, with your new company, wouldn’t you want that?” Church says. “Many do, and this is where TalentBoost is again playing a significant role.”

Educate Tomorrow’s Workforce

The projected job growth of wind turbine technicians, paired with the sector’s notable talent shortfall, means one thing above all else, Church suggests.

“It means that today’s sixth-graders need to know about the job opportunities in this craft,” he said.

Think about young middle schoolers in rural regions in the Midwest and Northwest thinking about their future, he says. Tech school immediately springs to mind. But to work on wind turbines, you often must relocate for the training. “Many times, they rather stay local. They can with something like TalentBoost,” Church says.

How?

Again, TalentBoost’s educational platform excels at disseminating valuable educational resources for apprentices looking to dabble in a growing interest.

“You can say, ‘If you’re ever interested in this craft, you can learn more here,’ and then send them to TalentBoost, where you can create an account for yourself,” Church says. “You can have content distributed by AVANGRID through TalentBoost.”

In other words, he says, “we can begin to train them before they’re ever really an applicant and before they’re ever really interested in working,” Church adds.

Sow the seed.

“We are doing that now with our offshore sector, creating a generation of STEM students with the ease of which content can be distributed for people passionate about this work,” he adds. “TalentBoost is uniquely positioned to do all this for us and probably many others as the years and demand for wind turbines grow.”

Note: Church is now the Chief People Officer at Point32Health, a leading health and wellbeing organization formed by the integration of Harvard Pilgrim and Tufts Health Plans. He interviewed for this blog before transitioning to his new position. TalentBoost is a GattiHR cloud platform for rapidly scaling organizations, integrating recruiting, training and employee engagement.