Calling a solar panel installation company and making you wait for months or even telling you that it cannot take on the task is the day-to-day of energy self-consumption in Catalonia. The demand for this type of facility has skyrocketed in recent years due to its high profitability and, especially, due to the rise in electricity market prices.
"We could incorporate more than 18,000 operators right now," says Raúl Rodríguez, general director of the Federation of Gremis d'Instal·ladors de Catalunya, (Fegicat). Specifically, a recent Fegicat study of 900 installation companies quantifies the vacancies at 18,051 and concludes that 65% of the companies require the immediate incorporation of qualified personnel.
The problem is not new, but it has worsened. “Engineers and installers have been missing for years, and nothing has been done about it. Now the situation has exploded due to the increased interest in installing solar panels and wind turbines. The problem is serious and will only increase, because the growth in demand is exponential," laments Joaquim Bruc, from the energy commission of the Col legi d'Enginyers Industrials de Catalunya. "I myself am looking for both engineers and operators and there is no way," acknowledges this owner of a renewable energy engineering and installation company.
Bruc recalls that before the economic crisis of 2008, Spanish companies were forced to import workers from Germany and does not rule out that the sector will be forced, again, to take similar measures.
Why are there so many workers missing in a country with more than three million unemployed people? The experts consulted agree that the bottleneck is found in training. “The capacity of the educational system for vocational training and the current active employment policies are insufficient and inefficient to guarantee the labor requirements of the market in the energy sector,” Rodríguez denounces.
Along the same lines, Joaquim Bruc asks that these formations be promoted and that more places be offered. However, he laments that "the Generalitat is not up to the task nor is it expected to be." As a consequence, "it is common for companies to be forced to hire untrained people to train them themselves," adds the spokesperson for the Col·legi d'Enginyers Industrials de Catalunya.
Fegicat considers it necessary to "initiate a territorial action plan that allows offering local and approved training, providing the affected associations with the resources and facilities necessary to be able to develop the training programs required by the sector, as well as implement communication actions to expose opportunities currently offered by the sector. The opportunities that Fegicat refers to are "the great projection of the future of renewables" and "the dignified jobs that are offered, with fixed contracts and remuneration well above the base salary," adds the general director of the federation.
To meet the objectives in energy matters in the framework of the fight against the climate crisis, companies in the sector should incorporate 5,933 workers a year until 2050, according to Fegicat estimates for Catalonia.