The renewable energy sector develops rapidly in Ukraine. And what about energy specialists: will the lack of specialist stand in the way of our progress
A number of specialists responsible for electric networks, for relay security, for ACS TP, designers – they are common for both renewable and so-called traditional energy. Yes, there are narrow specialists. Specialists from wind turbines, from cogeneration units. In fact, the energy source of renewable energy is connected to the same network as the traditional one. The work of most specialists correlates. And there maybe the problem not only in the amount of specialists for renewable energy market. The issue is wider – the need for specialists for energy in general. Will the lack of specialist stand in the way of progress? Of course it will. Moreover, we require high-level specialists.
What is the difference between a high-level specialist and an average one? The first one is able to create something new. That is, when there is a staffing potential – professional, highly-skilled, then the engineering development constantly takes place. If there are no highly-skilled engineers, the development of the industry is stopped. Then we will use only those forces that are given to us from abroad. So, of course, this is an extremely important issue for the industry. Our experts should be among the best in the world, to have the skills, knowledge of everything new to be able to create something new. Only this way we will go forward. We will be the locomotive that pulls everything else. If this is not the case, we will remain just one of the wagons in the global locomotive.
It is definitely a problem that we do not have highly specialized renewable energy specialists. Nevertheless, this will not severely «slow down» the industry. Because, if there are cool skilled professionals, then they can expand their range of knowledge. Our problem is more complex. If the issue is resolved with energy specialists in general, then other issues will be solved on its own.
Does labor migration from Ukraine influence workforce capacity?
Yes, in general – it influences if we are talking about the workforce capacity of the market, because the qualifications of employees are different. There are poor-skilled workers and also there are workers of medium or high qualification. As a rule, people with either poor or extremely high qualifications are migrating abroad. Because those with average qualification, as a rule, are not able to get (if we are not talking about IT, but about energy market) engineering and technical positions abroad. Locals abroad are happy to obtain such positions. In fact, there is a greater demand for ordinary workers, and even better – for the unskilled workers: drivers etc. Because of this, the engineer of secondary education is difficult to get a job in their field abroad. But if this is a highly-qualified engineer, they are in demand around the world. Therefore, I can say that yes, labor migration from Ukraine influences workforce capacity. Nevertheless, I see some positive aspects in it as well. In order to retain workers, any enterprise has to raise wages. But an enterprise can raise wages only when the employee brings added value more than he earns as a salary. This leads to automation and robotization of the enterprise. Another competitive requirement for the enterprise appears. Stronger, more competitive production goes to this level – and that is good. Because the crisis is over now, and it is time for growth. The fact that the wage level is lower than overseas is due to the fact that labor productivity is poor comparing to foreign countries. And this situation makes it more difficult to work more efficiently, possibly even if there are job cuts and workers' skills development. What I am trying to say is that nothing is only black and white. Yes, it's hard to find a semiskilled person for a low salary. But it may not be necessary. There may be a robot like ours packing solar panels – it will cope perfectly with the task. And we need one operator, who will be responsible for the section of the line. We can pay him a decent salary. Maybe it is better?
KNESS Group is building the largest share of solar power plants in Ukraine. How does the company find specialists for the design, construction and maintenance of PVPP?
First of all, all the work that is carried out on the maintenance of PVPP, is work with increased danger, so the professional selection should be sufficiently rigid. Because it is an employee's safety issue, the prevention of accidents and high- quality PVPP services.
No less responsible approach is applied to design specialists, although in our design department the vast majority of employees are young people, recently graduated from the university. Actually in a rather short period we were able to gather very qualified workers, if to take into account that they came to us about 3-4 years ago, but now their qualification equals to 10- 15 years of work in this field. This gives an understanding that young people who want to and can learn, learn very quickly and can do serious work with great responsibility. Accordingly, we continue to follow two ways. The first one is the selection of young specialists. Here we work not only with those who live in Vinnytsia and Vinnytsia region. We have many workers from other cities of Ukraine. But if we need to develop a new direction (and this can be any activity) and see a tangible lack of knowledge in this area, we are looking for the most experienced specialist. As in the group of companies not only specialists in energetics work. And if we need a person in a new field in which we so far develop, then we are looking for specialists with a high professional level from the start. This is the second way.
In what professions, allied to the solar business, is there the greatest need now?
Almost in all professions there is need on the market. Occupations that are temporarily more in demand or those professions in which you can work in foreign companies, such as IT, while working in Ukraine, have a totally unrelated salary compared to other professionals. Absolutely not relevant compared to specialists of no other level, but another field. The qualifications of the IT programmer and the qualifications of the design engineer may coincide, but since the Ukrainian market has its own salary level, and England, France – their own, then the person who is here and actually works for companies of other countries receives overseas salary in Ukrainian reality. This is a big problem. Because for our company, for example, a design engineer may be more important, but on the market he has one salary, the IT engineer may be less important, but his salary is twice higher. And this brings up social tension and injustice. I clearly understand however that it is temporary.
There is also a need for a number of technical specialties. Previously, there was no need for serious professionals in the entire areas of engineering specialties. Now there are workers at the age of 60+, who worked before, and now the youth is starting to pull up. There is a noticeable gap of middle layer between them. We face the fact that we launch enterprises that are not usual for Vinnytsia. For example, metal work. We are not Zaporizhzhia, we are not Kharkiv, not Dnipro, where such enterprises are present. Or, for example, a solar panel plant, which in general has no analogues in Ukraine. This is a serious problem. If in the first case we can find a specialist somewhere, then in second case we only have to teach specialists. As for the progressive worldwide technologists, there is the lack of specialists in Ukraine. Accordingly, they need to be created. If we compare us to other countries, more developed, there is no such problem. UK, USA, Germany, France, Italy, Spain – they have these technologies. There is such a notion that the company is better and more rapidly developing if it focuses on its competencies. If we are good at designing and building power plants, then we do not have to deal with the release of tables for fixing solar panels. Because, theoretically, behind the gates should be a dozen companies that make tables for solar modules, they are highly engaged in metal processing. And they deal great with it. We however are not specialists in this. We did not know about metal processing at all 3 years ago when we started production. It has now become an experience and understanding. Such system works well in California, Germany or China. Because when you go outside the gate, 10 companies are willing to rumble metal or they want to release connection boxes or do something else. In Ukraine, the situation is quite different. It is a desert here. You go out – there is no one. Maybe Poland, Turkey or Spain can rumble metal. What to do in such a case? «How does a book write»? Leave our desert and pay money to another state? In such case, we would give all the added value somewhere abroad.
The situation must be changed and it has already started to change. For the past 10 years a lot of new factories have been opened and it makes us really happy. So yes – the approach taught in the best universities and academies is correct. However, they have needed conditions for that, those ones that we so far do not have and they need to be created.
Where can you learn these professions? Which institutions would you recommend?
There is a number of technical universities. I vote for the energy departments of technical universities. I would probably recommend 2 institutions: Lviv Polytechnic and KPI. In addition, there is always self-education. Even more, I would recommend referring to profile organizations, if you are interested in this direction, and to take industrial practice even while studying in specialized organizations in designing, engineering, etc. Now the situation is such that it is very difficult for Ukrainian universities to quickly rebuild and constantly adapt to the current market demands. The field of renewable energy has made a huge breakthrough for years. 4 years is the term for which the student does not even graduate from the university. And we are talking about the need to create new programs, to teach new professionals. In such a volatile world of classical learning centers, universities will never have time to manage engineer reality, engineering modernity. We will either be forced to switch to other learning options, as universities do abroad, or in addition to classical engineering education (which is necessary because the basic principles do not change depending on whether it is renewable energy or traditional), to take on the skills of workers themselves at the expense of educational programs.
But – for those who aspires to study – everything is possible. Self- organization and self-education nowadays – are a powerful mechanism through which you can achieve anything you want. Our modern world is so informative that virtually any information is freely available. We cannot understand this and still use it, for example, to facilitate classical education. If there is a topic that you want to work on – you use internet just to copy it, or rework.
It is a slightly different level however. Earlier, 20-30 years ago, each university was a closed institution, the only keeper of knowledge. You could not take this knowledge anywhere else. Now, with sufficient self-discipline, you can take any information that university does not even have. I think it is very important – to work on self-education on a profile that interests you.
What is the situation with teaching in general, does the country have enough teachers to teach young people?
What is teaching? Any teaching consists of two parts. It's methodological, that is, how can I teach people, and technological – what rigorous and modern knowledge I have from the subject to teach people. Our teachers do not manage neither the first part nor the second one. The world is changing, the country is changing, and we need to change faster than the world, because we need to keep up with it. And teachers are moving even slower than doctors. Although this is one of the most conservative specialties. Only 20 years ago, cataracts were removed by freezing the lens with a metal tool. Now the laser cataracts are removed for 1 minute 43 seconds. For 20 years, medicine has changed dramatically. Educational programs in universities over this 20 years have changed by 15-20 percent. And these doctors, who are extremely conservative, are running forward. And there are many educational programs that are methodologically, technically – stand still.
How can youth be involved in work in the industry?
By providing them with opportunities, involving them to the idea. I believe that these are two fundamental truths. Also – the possibility of self-realization. One thing is that when 9-10 years ago the company consisted of 8 people, we shared our ideas with all employees. We lived with all the workers. Everyone, even the head of the unit, shares his ideas with people. Now the structure cannot be compared with the previous one. It has grown vertically and horizontally. We created HR department when we realized that we needed to ensure the unity of thinking in many ways. In general, when any person comes to work for the first time, you must understand if there is a mental contact or no. We try to make every employee understand that everything is in his or her hands.
What is the greatest attractiveness of the work in renewable energy market?
I was always wondering why people buy water to drink at a price higher than that which is in the tap. And on the other hand – they say that green energy is expensive. This is paradox. They do not want to drink dirty water, but they are ready to breathe dirty air, because they do not see the consequences at the moment. Although the situation is the same. It's just like a long-term loan. What I am trying to say is that the fact that renewable energy is a non-alternative energy source. Humanity has no other chances to continue its development. It can be compared with the fact that there were electric motors and at the same time steam motors. Some people went to work on the technology of the introduction of electric motors, and others remained working on steam motors. And there was a quick and predictable death of steam engines. Literally, in 20-30 years they disappeared. I am sure here will be the same. Either you work on a growing trend for future, or you work on a trend that has a finite time. Are you up to something new or old? To create new – is to create the future.
Speaking about the production of renewable energy equipment – this industry in Ukraine is also growing quite rapidly. What professions and specialization in such industries will be in demand in the nearest future?
There is definitely a problem with innovation specialties, there are vivid problems with ACS TP (automatic control systems of technological process) and there is poor automation in Ukraine. But this is a common problem for almost all industries.