The industry-wide digitalization and decarbonization of energy is creating a huge technicalskills gap and cross-sector skills overlaps, massively expanding career choices for professionals.

Airswift’s latest Global Energy Talent Index showed that one-in-four of those working in oil and gas were hired from another sector in the last 18 months and more than threequarters would consider joining another energy sector in the next three years. The energy transition means skills increasingly have cross-sector applications from offshore oil and gas to offshore wind, giving energy CVs greater crossover appeal and opening new career paths to professionals.

Wages are also rebounding rapidly across all energy sectors in the wake of the pandemic, offering would-be career changers the opportunity for rapid promotion and pay increases.The renewables sector forms an increasingly attractive proposition with skyrocketing wages and a sustainable image that appeal to an ambitious, environmentallyconscious workforcethat values innovation.

Airswift’s recent success in transplanting talent from fossil fuels to renewables epitomizeshow the energy transition is expanding the career horizons of professionals and preserving vital skills during oil price downturns. Safety professional Jeremy Denton worked with Airswift to transition onto some of America’s leading solar, offshore wind and smart grid projects after a 15-year career spent primarily in oil and gas.

Building transferable skills

As an entry-level oil refinery worker in the 1990s, Denton immediately began looking for ways to learn widely applicable skills that would boost both progression and flexibility in his career.

Noticing that safety skills were in universally high demand as the oil and gas industry is heavily regulated, he worked hard to internalize the different safety requirements and rulesand study safety certifications including the OSHA 500 Trainer Course in Construction Safety and Health and was employed as a specialist safety professional for his refinery.

Denton’s transferable safety skills allowed him to rapidly rise from entry level to project safety manager level for some of the world’s biggest oil majors from BP and Exxon Mobil to Valero and Shell. He further diversified his experience beyond the industry with wide-ranging safety roles in commercial construction to the Army Corps of Engineers.

Moving to renewables

As a multi-skilled safety professional specializing in construction, Denton’s skills were a natural fit for a flourishing renewables industry undergoing accelerated development.President Biden’s push for 100% carbon-free electricity could produce as many as 80,000 jobs in wind alone by 2035 and require a major influx of raw skills from related industries.

Denton says: “This is a great time for a career move as renewables are booming across the US with so many projects coming online. Oil is a ‘feast or famine’ industry floating on the price of a barrel while renewables offer stability and job security. I was also drawn to the tech innovation involved in a new industry that is scaling at speed and learning on the fly. For example, they are constantly innovating with high-performance new materials to maximizesolar capacity while minimizing the size of solar panels.”

Creating a circular economy of skills

Having previously placed him in a contract role for a project with Marathon, Airswift helped Denton take the leap into a career in green energy, submitting him for a position on the greenfield construction of a 200MW solar facility in Arizona for AES. Airswift also facilitated the interview process and helped Denton to secure the job.

As well as securing certifications from the two safety professional organizations essential to operating in renewable energy – the Board of Certified Safety Professionals and the Utility Safety and Operations Leadership Network – Denton had also undertaken online safety certifications with broad applications from fire and emergency to occupational safety. This has enabled him to pursue a varied career in safety project management for leading-edgerenewable projects including Southern California Edison’s major grid modernization.

In keeping with his ongoing quest for diverse experiences, Denton has also overseen safe seabed surveys for new offshore wind platforms.

He notes: There are surprising skills synergies between the sectors. For example, anyone who has worked on a rig involved in installation and energization of electric components already has the raw skills needed for new solar facilities or expanding renewable grids. And whether working on rigs and refineries or offshore wind projects, there is always rigging and cranes involved so the engineering and safety skills are seamlessly transferable.”

Denton’s experience moved him to mentor other professionals switching from fossil fuels to renewables, adding: “I see transitioning talent across as part of an ethical mission to preserve vital energy skills that are otherwise lost forever in boom-and-bust cycles. Just as the circular economy can reduce waste and preserve assets, a circular economy of skills can help the energy industry preserve invaluable expertise for future generations.”