Recruiting the Next Generation Wind Professionals in the Netherlands

Driving to Atlas Professionals’ Dutch Renewables hub in the province of Zeeland, you see the landscape changing substantially. The further you drive South West from Amsterdam, the more open plains and – how could we not mention it – the wind get the upper hand.

In spite of its relatively remote location, the town Vlissingen is the place to be for Renewables in the Netherlands. Not only the offshore wind farm sites Borssele 1&2 (Ørsted), 3&4 (Blauwwind) and 5 (Two Towers), but also East Anglia ONE (ScottishPower Renewables and Vattenfall) and multiple onshore sites are (to be) serviced through North Sea Port and Zeeland Airport. 

Atlas’ Renewables department at the company’s HQ in Hoofddorp, the Netherlands, historically only focused on white collar roles. Recently it expanded its focus to include blue collar roles too due to the Dutch wind roadmap and increased client demand. The Renewables hub in Vlissingen still mainly focuses on blue collar roles. Miranda de Kraker, Vlissingen-based Account Manager Renewables, recounts setting up the wind hub back in February 2018: “At the time we already had a Renewables office in Bristol (UK) to service our global wind clients. We knew the Netherlands was going to make big steps forward and Zeeland would be the place to be. It was a strategic move to open the Renewables hub here and looking back I’m confident to say it proved to be a successful one.” 

Recruiting outside the box with Wind Experience Days

By and large, Miranda brings people together and shares her knowledge of the industry. A prime example of this are the Wind Experience Days she helped organise. This in collaboration with educational institute DOB Academy and a client based locally to the event, focussing on generating interest in the wind industry and tackling the skills shortage. “And with some great results,” says Miranda, who ensured attendees could experience first-hand what a day in the life of a wind professionals looks and feels like. “The Wind Experience Days are open to everyone who’s interested in the renewables industry, but we’re specifically targeting students on the one hand and professionals that are already in a service job in another sector and are interested in making the move towards renewables on the other hand.”

Recruiting outside the box not only helps Atlas and its client in the short run, Miranda explains: “We’ve placed multiple professionals that have visited the Wind Experience Days. Next to this, opened a lot of eyes. There were students that have never thought about the wind sector before and we really gained their interest with testimonials, a Virtual Reality (VR) experience, workshops and PPE demonstrations, to name a few. They know now where to find Atlas and have an understanding of the supply chain in Offshore wind once they graduate. The marketing impact of such a day is tremendous.”

Passionate about renewables and sourcing

Miranda spends about half of her time sourcing professionals. “Normally that is something a Personnel Coordinator would do, but I’m still quite involved with the sourcing of professionals. I enjoy it too much,” she admits. “It gives me a great feeling of pride every time I guide someone to the wind sector. It feels like a victory to our team: yes, it’s another one going to work in the wind industry!” On a weekly basis, Atlas’ renewables recruiters have no problem finding enough people to talk to. However, not every one of them is suited for the job. “A lot of people are afraid of heights,” Miranda laughs, “more than I ever expected! You can be skilled and very interested in for example a position as wind technician, but if you don’t dare to go up – or down – again, there’s not much we can do about that.”

Professionals’ fear of heights and an overall shortage of technical professionals are not the only bottlenecks. The pool of suitable candidates often gets limited further because most offshore wind parks in the Netherlands currently are nearshore. “As the professionals go home every evening by Crew Transfer Vessel, they need to live within a reasonable travel distance of the port. This in contrast to SOVs (Service Operations Vessel) with a two to four-week rotation, which allow you to source candidates from all over the country.” She adds that whenever Atlas advertises the latter, the phones ring all day long. 

“I can understand why working on an SOV is appealing,” Miranda says, “because – even though you work very hard and work twelve hours a day – you are taken care of very well when your shift is done. There’s a cinema, some professionals bring their PS4 controllers, the food is excellent, the vessel is clean. You’re relieved of all household and social obligations when you’re offshore and have good money to spend when you’re off.”

Blueprint for future success

Looking at the future of the wind industry Miranda sees it as Atlas’ responsibility to prepare the next generation for the boom in offshore and onshore wind. “We, as a recruitment specialist are committed to tackle the manpower challenge by working together with education institutions and clients. Together, with a collaborative approach, we can make big steps,” she says. “We really want young people to receive technical education and then go for renewables once they graduate. And we’re not the only ones with this mission, it’s something you feel a lot here in this area. We’re in the same boat and gives us power as a region.”

Although the Netherlands does not have as much GW installed as the UK and Denmark, Miranda is confident that the country’s wind energy will catch up quite soon. “The future offshore wind is huge. With the government having agreed to complete five offshore wind farms by 2023, we need to keep investing in offshore wind. I feel though that the most difficult period is behind us as the construction and operations basics have clearly been established. The blueprint is there, and we can improve it now. We’re ready and excited to step forward!”