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Green Engineering A Sector in Dire Need of ‘Willingly Skilled’ Workforce

Not only the students in higher education but also in the higher secondary class, need awareness about the engineering jobs in the green sector, Education Post’s Tanay Kumar finds out.

Education Post12 August 2023 07:09

Green Engineering A Sector in Dire Need of ‘Willingly Skilled’ Workforce

Not only the students in higher education but also in the higher secondary class, need awareness about the engineering jobs in the green sector, Education Post’s Tanay Kumar finds out.

onsumers may soon get a facility that they can ask electricity distribution companies to have local power supply from green and renewable energy sources. For their consumption of green power, they will be facilitated with Green Certificates and they may be facilitated to pay lower power tariffs as they will consume green power. These are some of the provisions of the Green Energy Open Access Rules (GEOAR), which was released last year in July by the Ministry of Power, to promote and incentivize green energy among common households. India has set a target to generate 50% of its energy requirements from renewable resources and having non-fossil energy capacity up to 500 GW by 2030.

Experts in the energy corners are calling GEOAR a good policy by the Power and New & Renewable Energy Ministries as it will incentivize the household consumers for their participation in sustainable energy. GEOAR might create a demand which will further lead to supply by power generation and discoms.

In a meeting held in May, Union Minister for Power & New and Renewable Energy, R.K. Singh requested industry leaders and other stakeholders to set targets for going green and take advantage of the provisions of Green Energy Open Access Rules (GEOAR). Under the same GEOAR rules, the power ministry set a target to cut emissions by 45% by 2030.

But there is a predicament that the industry in itself has been facing a huge shortage of skilled labor force, as without intense skilled force, no industry will have adequate growth rate. Skilled workforce definitely will speed up India’s efforts in green energy.

In May, Education Post attended a conference of a week-long India Energy Storage Week 2023, held in New Delhi’s Pragati Maidan. The international conference was organized by India Energy Storage Alliance, promoted by four union ministries, including New & Renewable Energy and Heavy Industries. Almost every dignitary who was present at the conference lamented over the dearth of skilled, or “willingly skilled” workforce.

Thanks to the new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, which emphasizes on bridging the industry-academia gap that India has faced for long. Engineering courses get the lion’s share of this gap as Wheebox Skill report states that more than half of engineers in India are not skilled at par with the current or even future industry’s needs.

To achieve 50% of energy requirements from renewable and unconventional sources, India is bound to have a skilled workforce in green engineering as well.

What is Green Engineering?

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website states that green engineering is the design, commercialization, and use of processes and products in a way that reduces pollution, promotes sustainability, and minimizes risk to human health and the environment without sacrificing economic viability and efficiency.

Unfortunately, India doesn’t have an adequate workforce in green engineering as well. It is one of those sectors that have been registering growth for almost a decade, even during the lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wind turbine engineering, solar energy, environmental engineering, bio-physics, sustainable engineering, urban engineering, waste management, geo-environmental engineering, environmental chemistry are some example courses that are taught under this category around the world. Alas, a big number of colleges in India don’t offer these kinds of courses, as neither a majority of students are interested nor adequate academic expertise is available for them.

Former IIT Delhi director V Ramgopal Rao felt sorry last year in his tweet which states, “Colleges are hardly able to fill even one-third of the available seats in branches other than Computer Science and IT. No one wants to do even Electronics. The situation is worse in civil, mechanical, etc.”

If a majority of students are not interested in non-CS/IT branches like civil or chemical, what more could be said for branches in the green engineering?

Plight of the Sector

To assess if the students are even keen about it, Education Post met students of class 12th of science stream at two private schools of New Delhi. Despite so much information available over the internet, none of the students has heard of the term green engineering and the job roles offered in this category. After explaining the importance of this sunrise sector, many of them got some idea. When asked about if they would choose their career in this growth-registered sector, they said they would consider it as a “secondary option” if they don’t get admissions in popular engineering branches.

“Willing Skill is the need of this industry as a majority of students of class 12th are more inclined towards CS or IT or, other popular streams like electronics. The industry in the green and sustainability sector needs a willingly skilled workforce. Scarcity of right and determined talent is the biggest challenge we have been facing. Their availability is not on par with the industry’s requirement. Many of them feel this sector as a secondary option, if they don’t make big in the software industry. This industry registers good attrition rate as the moment many employees find an opportunity in the software or other popular industry, they jump,” says Naveen Goudar, Managing Director of a chemical technology brand working in the consumer electronics, communication infrastructure, and the organization has been contributing big in the sustainability.

When asked about the salary offered and training of the entry-level employees in this sector, Goudar said, “Funding of this sector is eventually fantastic and that’s why offered salaries are also handsome for a skilled person as we also have to retain them. Only thing any organization in the green engineering sector is facing is the dearth of the willingly skilled talent. I mean, if they really are willing to work in this sector. And yes, we have to train those who are new in this sector, further costing not only time, but the resources as well. Sometimes we have to train even those who have 10 years of academic and work experience combined in other sectors.”

With a good hope because of the encouragements by both the central and state governments, Goudar added, “It’s not that there is a blank in this sector as some institutions are making great efforts, but yes, this sector definitely needs acceleration when it comes to personnel. I am an IT industry quitter and joined the chemical sector to contribute to sustainability as I wanted to be a part of the green revolution which is more of a necessity right now.”

Geetika Chauhan, an Indian green finance expert, working in Hesse, Germany, completed her post-graduation in Energy and Environmental Management in Developing Countries from EuropaUniversität Flensburg, Germany. “In Germany, companies started in sourcing sustainability expertise since much earlier – using external consultancies for validation and market standard updates, rather than building strategy from scratch. In India, independent job roles within core sectors (like energy) were still a new concept until the last decade. We could probably say this about literally any sector,” she said.

“India has very strong advocacy at the central government level for green job building. This impacts the structure of education as a very low number of universities offer specialization, like RE engineering, Waste Management, probably because unique courses were not attracting enough companies visiting for campus placements. Many small solar companies, for example, wanted a superman kind of hired employee who can do everything from sales to final project implementation. This person would actually best come from a multi-disciplinary program, not a solar PV engineering course,” she added.

Question stands – does the current higher education system, at both the government and private institutions, seem to be doing enough to prepare the required workforce in green engineering?

Lavessh Bhandari, an economist, entrepreneur, environment evangelist and President and Senior Fellow at the Centre for Social and Economic Progress replied, “No, but then no one really knows the skill sets required, in such a situation best to continue with basic engineering skills until technologies get more crystallized.”

Way Forward

Availability of the skilled workforce needs to be addressed if any country wants to achieve any ambition lying within the ambit of sustainable development sector, and the same stands true for green engineering as well. Vocational courses or industry-driven course must be offered in great magnitude so that there should be an enough number of available seats for such type of courses, with an eye towards the industries and organization working in the green sector.

“Please have a healthy communication with us, listen to the demands that the future requires in this sector and let the students save their good time, which goes in training them after their college. We also like to contribute to the academics.” Goudar replied to a question if any industry person in this sector wants to pass any message to the academics.

On the popularity of the jobs in the green engineering as compared to those in IT or other sectors, Bhandari said, “The probability of getting a well-paying job is higher with IT, finance and CS, so they are more popular. The market is working as it should, the green jobs skills required can easily be accessed through add-on courses as those technologies and businesses get more traction.”

Chouhan said: “Universities in Germany offer a huge variety of courses in this stream: pure sustainability-centric courses connected to specific sectors, e.g. built environment, roads and transport, energy, environmental, urban/circularity, and most recently integrated with data analytics and data science electives, etc. Indian academia also needs to build one like that.”

Skill Council for Green Jobs

Launched by the Government of India and created in 2015, the Skill Council for Green Jobs (SCGJ) is one organization where both the universities/colleges and industries come together on this platform to help the students and institutions not only in green engineering sector but also in the other sister fields of the sustainable development. The organization has built over 400 training centers around the country and accelerating further in the same. In addition, the organization has collaborated with over 110 associates from over 100 companies that are working in solar, wind, waste management engineering, bio-gas, thermal, carbon advisory and only adding more associates with time.

SCGJ keeps disseminating information about the existing and futuristic areas where students can look, e.g. Green Hydrogen Energy, Floating Solar Power Plants, Off Shore Wind Power Plants, Hybrid Solar Wind and other Renewable Energy Systems, Biomass/Biofuels/ Bio CNG Production and Supply Chain, Large Size Energy Storage, Pollution Prevention and Control Network, E-waste Management and many more.

It would definitely be nectar for India, if the country achieves 50% of its energy from renewable resources, and this can happen only if the country can produce and deploy willful skilled workforce to help in achieving this target.

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