Human capital is an essential and key element in both the construction and operation of offshore and onshore wind farms. The industry is rapidly growing and skilled workers are still in short supply. On 4th October 2022 Global Wind Organisation held its Training & Safety Forum in GWO headquarters in Copenhagen. The meeting aimed to involve participants in a dialogue on the future of the wind energy industry workforce through interactive workshops and panels.

Discussions during GWO Forum primarily evolved around the newly presented Entry Level Wind Technician Framework that offers three simplified profiles among new entrants to enable finding jobs within the areas of Pre-Assembly, Installation or Operations & Maintenance (O&M). The Framework intends to facilitate recruitment of professionals from various backgrounds (e.g. mining and army sector) and enable their transition to wind industry. 

“The key to the success of GWOs standards is that they are prepared by industry, for industry. So having training providers and the wind safety training community together at the Forum was an amazing opportunity to discuss how the Entry Level Framework can best deliver on our ambition to clarify and simplify the initial training of new talent” – commented Lisa Mallon, Chair of the Global Wind Organisation. 

According to Karolina Jastrzębska, Managing Director of windhunter academy“This standard shows the direction in which the global need to attract new manpower to the wind energy industry is heading. Today it is no longer just training to ensure safety when operating wind turbines. We are now moving in a broader direction, which is to attract new manpower, which as you can see is a challenge in the global market. This standard shows the path that can be taken by a person who has no experience or who has already acquired certain qualifications. This standard indicates what certificates are needed to work as a wind turbine technician”.

Michał Sokulski, Sales and Marketing Coordinator at Vulcan Training & Consultancy indicated that “the main conclusion is: the entry into the wind industry should be made easier for those wishing to start their career. And such an opportunity is provided by the GWO Entry Level Wind Technician Framework – a clearly defined set of competencies needed for the job that will leave new technicians in no doubt”.

Source: BalticWind.EU

For Michael Dooley, Managing Director at Cresto Group “the Forum was an excellent chance for the GWO organsation and the training organisations to connect, calibrate and exchange views on future collaboration. A good networking forum, and one that is extremely necessary, and which should happen more often if possible. The new training framework for the Wind Technician training presented at the forum is clear, concise, and logical and will be a tool around which we can communicate with all stakeholders in the supply chain for new technicians.” 

Discussion is needed to ensure full effectiveness of the new Framework 

During the forum, delegates were divided into groups and focused on the ways for clearing a path for the future workforce. Participants deliberated over challenges and opportunities stemming from the newly adopted Framework, their findings were presented to the audience by each team’s spokesperson. Training providers were asked to present their view on the next steps and expectations towards GWO with regard to application of a novel framework. Forum enabled attendees to participate in an informal and open dialogue on any concerns, ideas and points to the framework.

“The GWO organisation, and all the members and support organisations, now need to make sure the communication regarding this framework is consistent globally, which will also remove some of the bottlenecks discussed during the forum.” – said Dooley

The workshops provided GWO with important feedback delivered by participants, which includes certain concerns and potential drawbacks that the Framework can bring. 

“During the coming months GWO will be building on the Forum’s discussions through a further programme focused on delivering the tools the community has told us it needs” – added Lisa Mallon. 

Second session touched upon predictions on the workforce demand in the light of the increasing global operational wind capacity in the period 2022 – 2026. According to GWO, the wind sector needs 142,100 of new recruits to ensure a total of 568.800 technicians required to facilitate construction and installation of 557 GW in the upcoming five-year period. Andrea Scassola, GWO Business Analytics Manager in his presentation highlighted that the demand for the Control and Instrumentation (C&I) as well as Operation and Maintenance (O&M) technicians will grow globally alongside new installations and cumulative capacity, with the majority from the offshore wind technician workforce.

According to Karolina Jastrzębska: “Such meetings are a great opportunity to see how training centers around the world operate, what challenges we face, and to clearly indicate the direction of development for the GWO itself. The idea, the standards, the creation of training courses, and their implementation at the highest quality, at the right price, while meeting the customer’s expectations are two different things. Here you always have to find a common ground that satisfies all parties.”

One of the key elements of the GWO Forum were GWO Safety & Training Awards, the world’s first programmme of its kind recognizing the skills and impact of training providers and instructors keeping the wind energy workforce safe on site

Pioneers’ panel discussion and The project with Polish miners

During Pioneers’ panel discussion moderated by Jakob Lau Holst, CEO of the GWO, the audience had a chance to hear about projects conducted by training leaders. Among them was Karolina Jastrzębska, the Managing Director of windhunter academy, who introduced a recently launched pilot programme undertaken with OX2 as well as presented the outcomes and their future plans. 

The pilot project for the retraining of miners, which we implemented as windhutner academy together with OX2, is a way to get a group of skilled, motivated and ready-to-work employees. In addition, it is part of the energy transition and the identification of new development paths for an industry that will be reducing its workforce in the coming years. It is also important that such programmes can apply to many industries, and this is our aim, to show that retraining or maintaining activity in labour market  can apply to everyone, and that the wind energy direction is something really attractive” said Karolina Jastrzębska in commentary for BalticWind.EU.  

Jakob Lau Holst, CEO of the GWO and Karolina Jastrzębska, Managing Director in windhunter academy during her speech on the pilot project Source: BalticWind.EU 

The wind energy sector will face an immense challenge of ensuring adequate numbers and qualifications in the workforce, which include but are not limited to professionals transitioning from the mining sector.  Therefore, we have also asked windhunter about the profile of an ideal candidate to work on wind turbines:

“The ideal candidate to work on wind turbines is a physically fit person who is willing to work on a rotating basis, who speaks English at least to a communicative degree and has a degree or experience in a technical field – preferably electrical. Further, a number of additional qualifications are needed, which are obtained in training centres such as ours, where, after spending about 1 month, you can obtain the most important training to work on wind turbines in Poland and around the world.”

Relevance of the Framework for offshore technicians in the Baltic Sea 

From the perspective of offshore wind energy within the Baltic Sea, the acquisition of necessary skills throughout training programmes for technicians will play a vital role in creating a local workforce. BalticWind.EU has asked the participants about the applicability of the new Framework for the developing offshore wind sector in the Baltic Sea region. 

Lisa Mallon, GWO commented that “GWO’s standards and the Entry Level Framework are designed to be valid globally. The Baltic Region, like others, should seize this tremendous opportunity to leverage the GWO Framework and increase the flow of new talent into the wind industry from education and transitioning from other industries.” 

“The GWO Framework’s three profiles show new starters, employers and training providers just what training is needed to make the jump to a career in wind. These careers may start in the Baltic Region but the Framework offers a world of opportunities to become a vital part in the green transition.” – added Mallon. 

According to Karolina Jastrzębska the new Framework “is a response to a market that is in need of new skilled personnel. In Poland, we feel this need very strongly, by observing the huge potential and current plans to build almost 6GW in the Baltic Sea. We need to be aware that this potential comes with a giant challenge in obtaining sufficient manpower.”

“I believe this is a necessary step for the development of offshore wind energy in Poland and around the world. According to forecasts, the entire wind energy industry will employ 568,800 technicians by 2026. From 2021 to 2026, an increase in the number of employees of about 28,400 is forecasted. Transparent requirements are also an opportunity for smooth retraining of experienced workers from other industries: e.g. former soldiers, fishermen or miners.” – commented Michał Sokulski 

“Regarding the development of offshore wind facilities in the Baltic Sea region, this framework can very much help in the recruitment of technicians from other industries and professions. The framework illustrates clearly what will be expected of a person before they can be considered a “wind technician”” – said representative of Cresto Group. 

Necessary education and technical skills of offshore technicians have to be backed up by required offshore experience as well as possession of GWO certificates. Qualifying technicians now, will ensure professional and skilled workforce in the offshore sector within the Baltic Sea. 

“Acquiring the right personnel must go hand in hand with proper information and people’s awareness of wind energy. Public education, information about the industry, job fairs are all necessary activities to raise public awareness and thus interest in wind energy” summarized Karolina Jastrzębska.