Energy Jobs and Careers
One industry that's unlikely to be experiencing a downturn anytime soon is the energy industry. Being critical to the country's infrastructure, this diverse sector provides employment to thousands in its key sectors, which include oil and gas, nuclear electricity, coal distribution and renewable energy.
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The Energy sector is one of the most exciting and dynamic, as new ideas are developed and implemented in the interests of environmentalism and conservation. However, all sectors are involved with providing sustainable energy supplies in the future, so the whole industry continues to make huge technological advances.
All sectors of the industry have a part to play in providing us with a secure and sustainable supply of energy in the future. New ways to make existing supplies last longer, as well as research and development into new ones, must combine in our long-term move to a world less dependent on carbon-based fuels.
Energy provides exciting opportunities for skilled scientists, engineers and technicians, with superb training available for apprentices and new recruits. Many more employees work in supporting capacities, from management to administration and customer service.
Energy Industry Sectors
- Oil continues to be a major sector in the energy industry. Demand is increasing, although concerns continue to be expressed as to the depletion of sources.
- Natural gas is the UK's main heating fuel, although it's a diminishing fossil fuel. About one third of the UK's electricity is produced via natural gas, which is a mixture of methane, ethane, propane and butane.
- Coal mining has declined in the UK, but continues to import from China, India and areas of Eastern Europe. Coal is one of the diminishing fossil fuels and the trend is to use other sources.
- Electricity usage increases, despite the decline in fossil fuel sources (coal, gas, oil) used in its generation. This is prompting many new initiatives to develop renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.
- Nuclear energy produces electricity from uranium. On one level, it's upheld as a 'clean' fuel that does not contribute to carbon dioxide emissions or depend on fossil fuels. However, the Japan earthquake of 2011 has raised concerns about its safety.
- Biofuels and Biomass. Biofuels are derived from plant and animal material sources. Biofuels can be burned and used for heating, hot water, cooking and creating steam for electricity generation. Biomass is the name given to that plant and animal material, which can produce heat, electricity and a combination of heat and power.
- Renewable energy draws on hydro power, solar, wind, biofuels and geothermal sources. This is the 'green alternative' and represents one of the fastest evolving areas of the energy industry.
Areas of Employment in Energy
Exploration includes looking for new reserves of fossil fuels via seismic surveying and analysis, with production then incorporating drilling as well as electrical, chemical and mechanical engineering. Geologists and engineers are involved in drilling and exploration.
Power generation involves sustainable and efficient approaches, as well as efficient storage of power once produced. Numerous technologies and approaches are used. Current production is accompanied by ongoing research and testing into emerging methods and processes that minimise environmental impact while improving efficiency. Engineers are involved in design, research, testing, commissioning and installation of energy equipment. Research scientists are involved in developing and testing new technologies and alternative energy sources.
Refining is the process of changing fossil fuels or biofuels into a form of energy that can be distributed to customers. Professionals in this area manage the safety and technical viability of the refining process, reducing costs and improving profits margins, while managing the sustainability of the process.
Energy storage incorporates the many processes by which energy is stored prior to distribution via networks. The energy networks distribute gas and electricity to the customers in homes and businesses. Professionals are involved in the processes, as well as managing the networks in this critical area of energy provision.
Carbon management concerns climate change and optimising the businesses to be greener, while retaining viability. Areas of consideration include transport, information technology, business consultancy, insurance and market research.
Distribution is part of the delivery of energy to customers and incorporates every area of accountancy, administration, marketing, systems analysis, human resources, IT, health and safety, and consultancy.
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What Skills Are Needed
For engineering and research positions, solid degrees of 2:2 or 2:1 are usually expected, as well as strong scientific, technological and mathematical skills. As it is constantly evolving, the energy industry is keen to recruit innovative problem solvers with a keen commercial awareness.
Oil and gas jobs
Specialist scientists needed in the oil and gas industries include geophysicists, petroleum engineers, hydrologists, process engineers and geochemists.
Engineering specialisms in oil include chemical engineers, mechanical engineers, mining engineers, civil engineers, design engineer, drilling engineers, electrical engineers and petroleum engineers. Mathematicians are needed in many oil industry roles, supporting the work of scientists and engineers in new developments and in oil fields.
Business graduates can work in commercial trading, general management, purchasing and selling, personnel management, accounting and other 'typical' management and administration capacities. Roles include account manager, oil broker, production manager, plant manager and personnel manager.
Renewable energy jobs
The renewable energy sector offers a vast array of positions, many being innovative in nature. For example, engineers and geologists work on the locating, erecting and running of wind turbines.
Engineering positions include energy conservation officers, design engineers, renewables project engineers, wind forecasting managers, wind forecasting managers, energy and eco-design specialists.
Consultants in environment and sustainability are needed at every level. Business graduates who prefer an ethical role are involved in marketing and distribution. Research and development involves engineers and scientists, while commercial services are provided by personnel, finance, trading, purchase and supply, and IT professionals amongst others.
Management roles include energy and carbon manager, business development manager, marketing manager, personnel management, production manager and plant manager.
Nuclear energy jobs
Nuclear scientists, technologists and engineers are involved in the operation of nuclear power stations, ensuring the production, storage and waste handling processes are safe and efficient. This also applies to roles within the Royal Navy and BAE systems concerned with the construction of nuclear powered submarines. Roles include design engineer, safety case engineer, graphite core engineer and lifetime extension engineer.
Scientists in Research and Development are involved in identifying new ways of using nuclear energy, supported by laboratory and technical assistants. Mathematicians are involved in the design and construction of new power plants.
Non-scientific roles in marketing and distribution include accounts, marketing manager, depot manager, systems analyst, trading, purchase and supply, etc.
Electrical Power jobs
Electricity is generated across the UK, before being distributed through a national grid.
Engineers in power production include mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, control and instrumentation engineers, civil engineers, gas turbine engineers, chemical engineers and technical risk engineers, amongst others.
Other professional areas include project management, operations, renewables and risk management. Trading and commercial development, plus marketing, sales and customer service are involved in meeting market needs, while areas such as information technology and administration permeate the entire sector.
There are skills shortages at technician and engineer levels, with specific skills gaps around designers, planners, project engineers, system controllers and project managers.
Finding Employment in the Energy Sectors
The economic downturn has had a limited effect on the energy industry, although there are still numerous employment opportunities, particularly in sustainable and renewable energy. A great deal of scientific, engineering and project work continues to be fixed term or short term contract work, or temporary work through agencies.
Many energy companies operating in the UK have their own websites with careers pages, where you will find details of vacancies. The diversity of energy jobs means that you can find details on almost any general recruitment website, as well as the sites of specialist energy, engineering or planning associations and organisations.
There are many graduate schemes available, with many energy companies keen to take on the highest calibre candidates in science subjects and also for management development programmes. These are advertised on company websites, as well as being publicised at university recruitment fairs and networking events.
Most positions continue to be advertised, although it's possible to gain lower level positions via speculative applications. Larger companies may recruit internationally, meaning that competition can be extremely high.
Many power and energy companies run apprenticeships. These involve three years training and lead to an Intermediate Level apprenticeship, with opportunities for progressing to advanced apprenticeships. These focus on areas such as cable joiner, electrical fitter and overhead linesperson.
Job Sites for Energy Jobs
Jobs sites dedicated to the energy industry include:
Recruitment agencies dedicated to employment in the sector include: