Training strategies for the energy transition

At the 2023 IPF in Baltimore, our Business Development Director Jeff Anderson chaired a panel of senior figures from the leading US offshore wind developers and solutions providers.

Taylor Hopkinson Powered by Brunel logo, with photo of Nathalie Jouanneau, JV Strategy & Portfolio Manager at Atlantic Shores, with the quote: "Everything is in our heads in this modern industry... it's a challenge, but you can create the perfect onboarding process if you have existing knowledge and experience documented and accessible to everyone."

In the fourth part of this series, key decision-makers from Vestas, Attentive Energy, RWE Renewables and Atlantic Shores share their real-world insight on training strategies for new team members transitioning into offshore wind from other sectors.

Jeff Anderson, Director, Business Development in the Offshore Renewables team at world-leading renewables recruitment consultants Taylor Hopkinson.Jeff Anderson, Chair
Let’s talk about training. At Taylor Hopkinson we recently launched our Offshore Wind Essentials online course for candidates looking to move into the industry. What training do you provide for those transitioning from other sectors?

Amy McGinty, Vice President, Offshore Construction at VestasAmy McGinty, VP Offshore Construction, Vestas
For the types of positions that we’ve been filling up until this point, it’s all about on-the-job training. We match everybody up, more so lately as we’ve been hiring our project team. Everybody has someone that they’re paired with in Europe, somebody’s who’s currently working there, and they’ll go to Europe for a few weeks, and sit next to – whether it’s a document controller, or health and safety manager or quality manager, they’ll go and spend a few weeks with them.

They develop those relationships, and then they have a constant back-and-forth while also having those same conversations in the US with our onshore team. So we don’t have anything too formal. Once we get into hiring for the field roles, we absolutely will. But for the office roles, it’s very much on-the-job training and knowledge sharing with their colleagues here in the US and in Europe.

Nathalie Jouanneau, JV Strategy & Portfolio Manager, Atlantic Shores Offshore WindNathalie Jouanneau, JV Strategy & Portfolio Manager, Atlantic Shores
It’s the same for us. For the workforce we have here, we pair people within the organization. But I think all of us will continue investing in workforce development in our target markets. For me, part of it is building the skills before we even talk about transferring and building them from the start. And that comes through fellowships, partnerships with recruiters and universities on the East Coast – this is where we can contribute to creating that talent from the source.

And there are other things you can do – we’re working on a training program, we’re working on placing veterans as well. Because there are also a lot of skills, we talked about utilities, we talked about oil and gas and renewables. There’s a lot of skills such as programme management that can be transferred from military. 

And workforce development also goes on outside the office, with events like this. We haven’t picked just our veterans to come to this event right now, we have people that started recently. And we’ve asked them to come here and listen and participate in as many panels as they can, to listen and learn from it. 

Another aspect, which is not as exciting and interesting, is documentation. You need to document your knowledge. That’s a challenge in our super-modern, new industry –everything is in our heads. But if you document it, you make your onboarding better, you enrich the experience for new people coming in, whether they start from scratch straight from university or they’re transferring from other industries, you can really ramp them up in the most comfortable manner through the perfect onboarding process if you have that knowledge and experience documented and accessible for everyone.

Claudia Soltys, HR Business Partner at RWE Offshore Wind North America.Claudia Soltys
I agree, we need to have those processes to follow. Defining clearly what the onboarding process looks like – not only in the first two weeks. Rather than bombarding people with tasks in the first weeks, make sure that you’re really paying attention and listening to each other, and having catch-ups three months in, then six months in and throughout that year.

Move their training along – don’t have that individual completing all of their regular work within the first two weeks. Those that join from outside the industry, we pair them up with a peer – and that includes myself. I came from the health industry to offshore wind, and I am learning every day more and more from people that help me understand.

We need to bring people along and we need to share all the excitement that we have – even down to kids at school. I have a colleague who went to an elementary school and spoke to them about offshore wind. It has to start from the very beginning, doesn’t it? We cannot wait until somebody goes into high school or college, we have to capture their imaginations early on.

Damian Bednarz, Managing Director, Attentive EnergyDamian Bednarz, Managing Director, Attentive Energy
Thinking long-term, it also comes back to retention. If you can do a great job in the first 60 days of someone’s experience, they’ll be more inclined to stay long-term, because you’ve shown that you care and that you have a view onto where they need to be. The best materials, information, and documentation are important. Because all those great ideas from the past couple of years: where is that learning? It means everyone is not starting from scratch.

On the workforce piece, we need to get out there more and educate at a very young age. One of my favourite experiences so far in offshore wind was an event we did with our colleagues at the State University of New York Maritime College in the Bronx, where we brought in middle school kids for a full-day immersion: offshore wind saturation, with VR sets where you could see exactly what it takes to do the job.

They worked hands-on with a model turbine. They actually got out on the river. That creates “aha” moments – those kids will look back and that will be one of the big things that they remember. After that event, they wrote down feedback through a survey and it was excitement across the board! 

So how do you take that and turn it into an education programme? Where do you put dollars and resources, so that those kinds of organizations can scale? It’s super-critical that we build and work together on partnerships can accelerate that and create clear career pathways from school to the offshore wind sector. There are a lot of best practices already in this space.

And from a wider industry point of view, there’s huge value to be had in collaboration and information sharing. Because what we learn from an event or a programme, should be useful for another colleague in the space or anyone else to learn from and scale.

Read part one, with real-world insight on offshore wind hiring strategies and scaling-up journeys.

Read part two, on retaining talent and nurturing corporate culture

Read part three, on retaining culture in a new joint venture.

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