Green tech hiring in APAC to boom

Region's cleantech industry continues to grow, driving employer demand for relevant skills and employee interest for job vacancies, especially in Singapore, recruiters note.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor on

Hiring in the Asia-Pacific cleantech industry is seeing an upturn as the market continues to enjoy strong growth, note recruiters, who add that Singapore's push and investment in the sector, in particular, make it appealing to both employers and jobseekers.

Russell Otter, head of Kelly Engineering Resources division at recruitment agency Kelly Services, told ZDNet Asia that the Singapore government's support including plans by the Economic Development Board (EDB) to provide 18,000 "green collar" jobs by 2015 are signs that the industry is "on the rise" and becoming a "booming market" in the country.

In an e-mail interview, Otter cited the country's lack of natural resources and increasing awareness of eco-issues as other factors contributing to the national push for clean energy.

Another recruiter, Andree Mangels, manager of the engineering, sales and marketing divisions at Robert Walters, added that as fixed-energy resources such as electricity and water contribute to higher operation costs, businesses will be driven to go green, triggering the arrival of more cleantech companies.

Mangels also anticipates a transfer of technology from the semiconductor industry toward the cleantech industry such as solar power and photovaltics. "With the former as a sunset industry and the latter as a sunrise, we expect a refocus of the GDP (gross domestic product) drivers in Singapore, and a transfer from what was once profitable to the new highly-profitable industry," he said in an e-mail.

This means there is also a ready pool of talent in Singapore, "transferable from within the semiconductor and electronics industries", he added.

Green skills, jobs in demand
Mangels pointed out that there is increased employer demand, compared to the past, for candidates with green scheme certifications.

Otter also observed that Singapore is building up its own "green talent pool" as demand for talent with experience in cleantech grows, and more professionals show interest in finding work in the industry.

He said good career prospects in the green tech market are "expected", considering the growth potential of the industry, government funding, and that employers are willing to provide a good package to attract and retain talent.

Mangels agreed that jobs in this sector "pay slightly more" than similar positions in the semiconductor industry. For example, an experienced R&D (research and development) engineer earning about S$3,500 at a semicon company would take home about S$3,700 in a cleantech organization, he said.

Sean Sutton, Asia-Pacific president of Vestas, told ZDNet Asia that the region is expected to become the "new hotbed" for wind technology adoption. He added that Vestas has identified the need to attract, develop and train a competent and highly-skilled talent pool in the region.

According to Sutton, the Danish wind giant chose to set up its first global R&D facility outside Europe in Singapore in November 2008 because of its status as a "premier research center" as well as the Asean country's "commitment" to the clean energy sector. He revealed that most of the company's 100-plus research and engineering talent in its Singapore R&D facility here are locals.

Other foreign clean energy companies that have set up various facilities and offices in Singapore, ranging from R&D, manufacturing and logistics, include Spanish wind company Gamesa, Norwegian solar power company REC, and energy management company Schneider Electric.

Growing green giant
But while Asia's cleantech industry is "booming", accounting for about 55 percent of global industry, Robert Walters' Mangels noted that the region has yet to become the market leader. Currently, the United States holds approximately 40 percent market share, he added.

He noted that locality is an issue in Singapore's green tech market, explaining that the size of the country makes it difficult to set up large cleantech infrastructures in a cost-effective manner.

Kelly's Otter added that the cleantech industry is more robust in countries such as China and India, which also boast more job opportunities compared to Singapore.

According to an earlier ZDNet Asia report, Asia is only just becoming a green tech innovator. China, for instance, is the second leading wind-powered nation in the world, where 5 of the top 10 solar panel companies globally are Chinese firms.

China is also the world's largest green tech producer in terms of revenue, growing 77 percent over last year to earn US$64 billion. The Asian economy's green tech industry contributed 1.4 percent to its gross domestic product (GDP), while Denmark's ratio stood at at 3.1 percent.

June Soh, who teaches geography in a secondary school, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview that while Singapore's geographical location and size mean "sprawling wind or solar farms are unlikely", the country's fledgling cleantech industry has "potential for further development" in other green verticals such as electric and hybrid cars or eco-friendly products and places.

Efforts in these categories, from either public and private sectors, can lead to more "green-related jobs" in Singapore, she added.

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