Trends in recruitment: A shift to permanent positions to increase efficiency

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The offshore wind energy industry has shown a considerable growth over the years which in turn has resulted in an increase in jobs. As the growth continues in the years to come so will the number of jobs. In the UK alone, there are 7,000 full time jobs in the sector, growing to a possible 30,000 by 2020. This excludes the great number of contractors also working in the sector. As skilled technical professionals are already scarce, a great task awaits specialised personnel agencies.

Over the years, we have witnessed the industry maturing, and with that the demand for personnel has already risen considerably. Looking at the prognoses, the number of workers needed in the coming years will continue to increase, which brings with it a lot of opportunities, but also challenges.

More investments in for example tailor-made education and accredited courses offering specialist qualifications will be required because of the specialist nature of the work that needs to be completed and the high standards that professionals have to meet. At the same time, because the young industry is maturing fast, all parts of the supply chain are conscious of reducing costs. In the early stages of the offshore wind industry, the requests that agencies received were mostly about individual placements.

Today, there is much more demand on an agency to supply personnel for a full life cycle of an offshore wind farm, especially on a permanent basis, as it is simply more efficient. Improving efficiency is not a bad thing, but looking at the increasing demand for personnel, will result in agencies having to invest in its people as well.

A solid on and offline network is vital

Finding the right people within the offshore wind energy industry and filling the growing demand is a great undertaking, even for specialised personnel agencies. To supply personnel to all levels of the supply chain ranging from the planning stage through to the assembly, installation and operation and maintenance, all possible recruiting sources are used. These include utilisation of the personnel agency’s database, attending network and exhibition events, putting advertisements for vacancies on the agency’s website, using recommendations from internal referrals, and thereby using own workers to find new hires; a timesaving method.

Furthermore, new trends in finding the right candidates have arisen and employee networks such as Linkedln and XING, which can help find candidates more quickly and bypass reams of applications from job search sites, are frequently used. In particular, Linkedln has altered the hiring landscape, making it easy for recruiters to trace connections between known and unknown job candidates by using Linkedln’s database and software. There have always been job positions that are not easy to fill, such as Offshore Superintendents, Deputy Offshore Superintendents (DOS), Client Representatives, Tension Operators, Barge Masters and Extra HV Testers. Of course, the difficulty of the demand differs and is subject to various factors, such as the time of year, the project progress, the seniority of the person required, and whether it is an ad hoc position or a permanent role. However, in an effort to attract the right professionals in future years, it will be even more important to have a solid network both off and online.

Recruiters – the linking partner

Looking at the significance of the recruiter’s role in filling the open positions in the industry one can say it is quite comprehensive. Companies in this industry also have a network and a reputation themselves. The main role of a specialist personnel agency is to recognise and understand a client and the expertise required for their project to successfully match the correct candidate for the right job, by assessing skills, qualifications and experience as well as some of the soft skills such as personality, preferred work culture, management skills and even stress levels.

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There are always individual factors that must be considered depending on the project in question and location. In recent years, agencies are seeing more and more companies wishing to employ permanent candidates, in particular specific project personnel. It has been acknowledged that as the industry is still in its infancy, retaining knowledge and sharing lessons learnt experiences within an organisation is invaluable to not only individual projects and companies, but also the industry as a whole. Freelancers have a tendency to hop from project to project, thus unable to share such experiences for the next project.

Additionally, as the work locations vary depending on the project in question, agencies such as Atlas handle all travel and logistics arrangements in ensuring personnel make it successfully to the work location and home again. Furthermore, pay rolling, career development, training and guidance, and of course tax and legislation obligations are all examples of the added value services agencies can provide. As an agency, compliance should be at the forefront of all operations. Frequently, we see that companies in all parts of the supply chain appreciate leaving compliance matters in regards to the supply of personnel with the recruitment agencies.

At present, taking care of all sorts of legislation matters, including compliance with the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 is a major part of our daily job and it will only become more essential to be aware of all that is happening in the field of compliance, to ensure we can take more of an advisory role with our clients.

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Bridging the gap

Training and educating people is another topic that will ask for urgent attention in the near future. Presently, agencies are taking more and more responsibility when it comes to proper training and guidance of the professionals that work through them. As the current number of workers will simply not be sufficient to take in the huge increase of offshore wind job positions, the industry is left with no other option than stimulating the training and guidance of newcomers.

In addition, a competent workforce means a safe workforce and this is crucial to our business and our clients’ business. An agency should have a high regard for continuing personal and professional development of professionals, by organising regular training courses and workshops, whether this be through global training partnerships, or calling upon their in-house expertise.

These courses should not only be hosted for those who declare their unwavering loyalty to an agency, but also to external employers of permanent staff as ultimately having a competent workforce makes the offshore workplace a safe place.

With thanks to Laura Smith, Business Manager at specialist recruitment agency Atlas Professionals