Demand for talent rises across levels as solar firms double headcount each year
The demand is huge: The government has set a target of installing 100 gigawatt (GW) of solar power projects by 2022, which is expected to create over seven lakh jobs.
The demand is huge: The government has set a target of installing 100 gigawatt (GW) of solar power projects by 2022, which is expected to create over seven lakh jobs. The country currently has only 3 GW of solar installations. Companies in the solar space are doubling their headcount almost every year, whereas firms engaged in real estate, food and beverage and all kinds of unrelated businesses, are now creating separate solar energy business units.
From senior management roles to a wireman, there’s space here for everyone. If companies in the sector are recruiting senior management professionals from nonsolar firms and even government departments, entrepreneurs are also entering the sector.
“There’s plenty of people available in the infrastructure space, partly because some of the other projects haven’t progressed the way they could have otherwise. That’s made a large pool of people available for hiring,” says Inderpreet Wadwa, CEO of solar energy firm Azure Power.
Consider this: A 1 GW solar installation needs around 40,000 people for small rooftops, 27,000 for commercial rooftops, 10,000 for utility scale and 6,000 for GW scale (1,000 MW), according to solar consultancy and market intelligence firm Bridge to India.
Azure Power plans to double its headcount to 500 by the end of this year. It is heavily investing in training its manpower to enable hires from other companies to translate their skill sets into the solar space, as it is a nascent industry and experienced employees are hard to find.
“By and large if the industry grows on scale this can be a big issue (availability of trained manpower). But we don’t see that problem,” adds Wadhwa.
There seems to be no thumb rule as to how many people are required to install how many megawatts, says Wadhwa.
However, he believes a strength of 500 this year will help the company execute 2-3 GW of clean energy going forward.
The paucity of experienced manpower does have its fallout though. Not only does it pinch the organisation in terms of training budgets, but it also translates into rampant poaching as “solar experience” on a resume is highly coveted. The industry is paying well and because of big government targets, more people are needed in the long term — this implies stable jobs and growth.
“There’s a lot of poaching from our company because people are looking at where to get training from. This is because it is a very secure job for engineers and packages are rising. Now we work to retain people,” says Rahul Gupta, director, Rays Power Experts, a solar engineering procurement and construction company.
Interestingly, Gupta admits to hiring approximately 25% of his staff from the wind sector, for their experience in renewable energy.
“Professionals at wind energy companies, which are just a handful, felt insecure when the market dipped in 2012-14 due to the withdrawal of tax breaks. However, there are now many options with so many solar companies flourishing,” he said.
With the solar industry growing rapidly and many players entering the fray, “poaching is definitely there at the senior manager or top management level,” says Jyotsna Astwal, GM human resources and administration at inverter manufacturer Su-Kam, which is now also a solar systems manufacturer.
The abundant availability of manpower from other sectors, however, is seen to be temporary relief. Solar does help to redeploy talent from other areas but preparation must be made in advance as India hasn’t built enough infrastructure and when these projects restart in the next two years, additional talent will be needed, says Santosh Kamath, partner and head, renewable energy sector at KPMG.
“A lot of investment has to be made in training as manpower can become a challenge at both the managerial and unskilled levels,” he adds.
Thus, a mid-career professional will find the learning curve steep right now and in the near future, in the solar sector.
Given the expected growth in this space to match India’s increasing demand for green and sustainable energy, once the professional gains expertise in solar energy, he or she will be in great demand,” says Aman Attree, group head, corporate HR at Hindustan Powerprojects.