I promised myself I wouldn’t talk about the solar module tariff in this month’s Recruiter’s Outlook, but I can’t help from doing so. At Solar Power Northeast in early February, I heard about an interesting repercussion of the tariff from one of my customers. Obviously the tariff adds cost to every project (in some states more than in others), but I hadn’t considered its effects on project redesign. Some projects designed 6-12 months ago are no longer functional. Either the modules aren’t available for purchase or the cost has changed the whole financial scope of the project, in turn adding cost for re-design and changing the outlook for investors. And even if the prospect of strong return on investment withstands, the timeline for development, construction, and delivery will most definitely change.
What does this issue mean for recruitment? Added time and cost, for sure. There are a lot of variables in recruitment and this factor adds to the complexity. Find the right person at the right time at the right cost– it’s never as simple as it sounds. One thing you can count on is that less profit margin equals less money allocated for salaries. An undesired effect of lower salaries across the industry could result in clean energy professionals fleeing in search of higher paying jobs in other fields.
SunPower is blaming the module tariff case on their recent round of layoffs (if you didn’t hear, it’s 3% of their global workforce, or 200 jobs). While this reason is partially valid, they can’t blame a quarterly loss of $750M entirely on the cost of modules. I don’t think this will be a trend in 2018, and I firmly believe the worst of the job loss already happened. In fact, my phone has been ringing nonstop this year with companies looking to hire. Our Q1 revenue is already up 155% over last year. Just because projects have been delayed, doesn’t mean they aren’t going forward. Last year, we saw an abundance of development roles, and this year we’re seeing an increase in operations roles (project engineering and project managers). Even with the slow down in solar because of the module uncertainty, renewable energy is growing faster than the overall economy and the unemployment rate for renewable energy workers is much lower than the overall workforce.
If you need assistance with your Q1 hiring strategy, please reach out to us to schedule a virtual meeting.