With all the discussion surrounding the US economic stimulus package, which will nudge into Europe and the rest of the globe in the coming months, I have been tracking the job boards on sites like CleanTechies to see if I can spot a trend in the sort of people that are being attracted to clean tech organisations around the world.
These roles seem to fall into four categories, the first of which is the continuous demand for engineers, technologists and science majors. They will continue to be critical to the development of technologies; passionate early stage participants that must hold their breath until they get a risky cash infusion to explore a potential business. I say risky due to the fact that many clean tech businesses are in a chicken and egg position of needing to progress and develop their propositions with limited funds to deliver and pay salaries. The risk intensifies as scaling requires additional participants to be drawn from a limited talent pool. The pay high now to attract and keep the best, is a strategy that seems increasingly untenable.
The next demand point is the project managers, technicians and installers; again, there is a finite pool of skilled talent available to cover the demand. Given cash shortages, time constraints and intense pressure to deliver, I would gamble the diminishing value of my house that there is limited on-site/on-the-job training and education, especially within smaller organizations. Sure there is a growing number of wind farm and solar installers, but bio-mass engineers, wave technologists? Hmmm not so sure…
Then there is the analyst sector, here we see government quangos, VC’s and consulting firms offering their take on the clean tech space by telling organisations just how big their carbon foot print is and where the next big deal will come from. But the data is, at best, piecemeal with some of the best sources coming from sites like this (is my cheque in the mail?), offering insight as to what might happen. To illustrate that point, I was talking to a good friend and VC last week who stated that the four analysts they have working for them spend the majority of their time on blog sites – his words not mine!!
Finally there is business development and management per se. Out of all of them this is the one that threw me a bit. I totally understand that you need an MSC and other relevant skills at the technology end of things and then even in the operational management of a plant – but to sell technology and run a business? Using MBAs or people with several years of running and making a business work I totally get; but I think that some businesses are shooting themselves in the foot by insisting that everyone be a technologist. Even Jack Welch, who knew a bit about running a company, stated “I don’t need to be a banker at GE Capital; I employ over 4000 people that can do that job much better than me.”
So my take on the clean tech job world – we need more smart technicians and scientists, structured training on the job would be a good thing – so why don’t we do it? Analysts will get smarter and be much more valuable once all of the metrics are understood and become the how-to of the industry. And finally once the thinking becomes less technical and more about running a business, the ever important skills surrounding just how to run a business and make it hum will become critical.
We continue to live in exciting times.