Training needed! Energy efficiency firms struggle to find qualified workers

Blog | January 23, 2017 - 10:15 am
By Wendy Koch, Senior Director, Marketing & Communications

As the US unemployment rate nears a 10-year low, some companies report trouble finding skilled workers. The problem is particularly pervasive, as new data show, in the energy efficiency sector.

More than 80% of employers in this sector report at least some difficulty finding qualified job applicants, and more than 40% indicate it’s “very difficult,” according to the Department of Energy’s second annual energy and employment report released this month.

These numbers are slightly higher than the 76% reported last year for the energy efficiency sector or the 73% reported this year for all energy employers. Both years, and across the energy efficiency sector, the hiring challenge appears toughest in the construction industry.

Why such a problem? Employers say the top reason is “insufficient qualifications, certifications, and education,” followed by “lack of experience, training, or technical skills.” Their responses show a stark need for workforce training, especially given the broad economic benefits of energy efficiency. They also indicate a need for diversity, because men account for three of every four energy efficiency workers.

Despite the hiring challenges, the DOE report has good news. It expects a 9% increase this year in the number of energy efficiency workers. Already, it says 2.2 million Americans work at least part time in designing, installing, and manufacturing energy-efficient products and services such as those that carry the blue Energy Star label. This number is a conservative estimate. As ACEEE recently explained, the data cover only direct jobs rather than the indirect ones that result from the monetary savings of energy efficiency.

Also noteworthy: The anticipated job gains for energy efficiency outpace those for all energy firms covered by the DOE survey, which are expected to increase about 5% this year.