Cleantech companies plan to hire within five years, need range of skills and expertise

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Eighty-four percent of technology and energy companies in the Research Triangle Region of North Carolina expect to hire in the next five years, adding between 1,500 and 1,300 employees, according to new report released by the Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster and RTI International. 

Small companies are driving a significant part of this growth, most expecting to hire up to nine new employees, some doubling in size. The survey of the region's energy and technology sector sheds light on the talent needs and job opportunities in the cleantech sector, one of the region's fastest-growing industries. 

"The energy and technology sectors represent enormous economic opportunity for our region, and they require talent to grow and thrive," said RTCC Program Manager Christa Wagner Vinson. "Our goal with this study is to identify our companies' specific talent needs and then mobilize regional partners to help them get it."

The study, conducted for the RTCC by RTI International, surveyed 123 regional companies of all sizes that work in the technology and energy sectors or supportive services, from engineering, construction, semiconductors and wireless to waste management and biochemical manufacturing. 

The top areas cited for business growth among the companies are software/programming, data analytics, consulting, energy services, information technology and renewable energy. Nearly all of the businesses expect to integrate new capabilities into their business models, particularly data analytics, energy services and software/programming.

"It's important to note that the most in-demand positions are those that are feeding these companies' expected new lines of business and are also the most difficult to fill," Wagner Vinson said. "That presents us with both a challenge and an opportunity" 

Surveyed companies view the region's talent pool as strong (7.6 on a 1-10 scale) on the strength of its universities, diverse set of workers and skills, mix of mid-level workers with experience and entry-level workers who integrate well in the workforce and their ability to successfully attract workers to the region because of the quality of life.

Among key talent needs companies identified include: 

•    Software/programming (47 percent), aligning closely with companies' projected growth in IT, software and analytics.
•    Mid-level employees with industry knowledge.
•    Employees with a blend of technical and business skills, such as marketing/sales professionals with technical knowledge.
•    Niche skills, such as cyber security, data science, project management, sales engineering, electrical engineering, Oracle software expertise, substation automation and protection control engineers.
•    Workers with strong entrepreneurial instincts and senior executives that can function well in small, growing companies.

"To grow, most companies are looking to boost hiring in two main ways," said Sara Lawrence, a senior manager in economic development at RTI. "First, companies are looking for mid-career talent with some industry experience. Next, companies are seeking talent with blended skillsets that integrate communications and business acumen, for example, with engineering or data analytics." 

Overall, companies most prefer workers with engineering and technology degrees (67 percent) and business/management degrees second (36 percent).

Small businesses seek similar types of employees than their larger counterparts, but report they do not have the resources to recruit, train and pay for qualified employees as can more established companies with higher revenues. 

The RTCC will discuss the survey findings at its annual meeting Aug. 27 and use the results to develop a regional action plan to help the region and its cleantech companies meet their talent needs.

The complete report can be found online at http://www.researchtrianglecleantech.org/talentreport.

The Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster is an initiative of business, government, academic and nonprofit leaders working to accelerate the region's cleantech economy through collaboration and partnerships that promote innovation and sector growth. The Research Triangle Regional Partnership (RTRP) formed and manages the RTCC with funding from industry board members ABB Inc., Cisco Systems, Duke Energy, Field2Base Inc., Itron Inc., Piedmont Natural Gas, Power Analytics Corp., PowerSecure International, RTI International, SAS, Schneider Electric, Sensus and Siemens and its members. RTRP leads economic development for the Research Triangle Region of North Carolina. 

Highlights

  • Eighty-four percent of technology and energy companies in the Research Triangle Region of North Carolina expect to hire in the next five years, according to a new report
  • The first-ever survey of the region's cleantech sector sheds light on both company talent needs and job opportunities in one of the region's fastest-growing sectors