Recruitment in the renewable energy sector: The skills gap challenge

Ashleigh Dibb
Ashleigh Dibb

Published: January 24th, 2023

6 min

The shortage of skilled workers within the UK has far-reaching implications throughout the renewable energy sector. As new technology sees the sector advance, the openings for skilled workers continue to increase, with organisations fearing that failure to source candidates with the necessary skills will see the much-needed progress begin to slow.

Many of our clients are battling the ongoing talent shortage in the UK amid global competition for top talent. Hiring internationally appears to be one of the best ways to deal with the talent shortage locally and there is no doubt that the glaring skills gap within the UK will see more organisations looking globally to source the appropriate candidates.

Whilst overseas recruitment may seem daunting for organisations that are unfamiliar with the process, there are numerous avenues available to be explored. Many roles in the energy sector are suitable for UK sponsorship, with many engineering roles also classed as UK shortage occupations.

Sponsor Licences

The key routes for recruiting overseas nationals to the UK require the UK business to have a sponsor licence. Companies not currently approved to sponsor non-UK workers should now more than ever, consider doing so to enable them to offer employment to candidates when required, without lengthy procedural delays.

A Sponsor licence is a broad authorisation from the UK Home office that grants permission to an organisation to sponsor workers in the business, enabling them to bring skilled workers in from outside the UK. To obtain a sponsor licence a company is required to have no unspent convictions for offences relating to immigration, no history of failing to carry out sponsorship duties and must be offering genuine employment that meets the relevant skill level and rate of pay.

Obtaining a sponsor licence can be challenging, so it is worth reaching out to our specialist immigration team to ensure that all your paperwork is in order and completed on time.

Once a business has secured a sponsor licence, they can source the top candidates in their industry to work in the UK. There are various routes available to do this through, some of which are detailed below.

Skilled Worker Visas:

With a skilled worker visa, a sponsored employee can stay and work in the UK for up to five years before having to renew it or apply for indefinite leave to remain. Aside from a business requiring a sponsor licence, the individual will also need to qualify for a skilled worker visa.

The mandatory requirements are:

  • A job offer by an approved sponsor

  • The job is at an appropriate skill level

  • Communicate in English at the required level

The skilled worker route can be popular amongst candidates as it offers a direct route to settlement in the UK.

Business Mobility -Secondment visas:

For businesses who operate globally, Secondment visas can be obtained to bring oversees workers to the UK temporarily to work on high value contracts of investments.

To qualify for a Global Business Mobility Visa: Secondment Worker, applicants must satisfy various conditions including:

  • They are currently worker for an overseas business that has a contract with your sponsor worth at least £50 million

  • They have worked outside the UK for that overseas business for a cumulative period of at least 12 months

  • They have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship, issued by the UK sponsor, and

  • The job they are planning to do is genuine and meets the required skill level

Employees entering the UK under the Business Mobility Secondment visa are limited to a maximum stay of six months.

Frontier worker permits:

For businesses who do not hold a sponsor licence or meet the eligibility under the skilled worker route, the frontier worker permit may be an option to explore. The UK Frontier Worker Permits allow European nationals who reside in another country but have a job in the UK to travel to the UK for the purposes of their employment. If an employee was not already working in the UK by 31 December 2020, they will need to apply for an alternative visa rather than a Frontier Worker permit.

The Immigration team at Forbes have advised several clients on the use of frontier worker permits to engage workers in the renewable energy sector to combat the recruitment issues faced. We supported one client with formulating a strategy to enable specialise travel to the UK from Bulgaria to work on large scale solar panel plant construction projects across the UK. For this project, we assisted with the application process from end-to-end for over 70 successful frontier worker applications.

Our specialist Immigration team can offer immigration advice and support to businesses across varies sectors. We can assist you through all aspects of immigration and global mobility including Home office applications for sponsor licences and subsequent visas.

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