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July 20, 2023

Kate Urban, Sr. Research Writer

Industry spotlight: How Gen Z is powering the renewable energy transition

Energy companies are racing to recruit the next generation of talent.

Key findings

  • Energy companies are already facing talent shortages as they embark on an ambitious transition toward renewables. The industry will need an influx of skilled workers, including employees with in-demand tech skills, to deliver on the promise of a clean-energy future.
  • Energy companies are putting more effort toward recruiting early-career hires. On Handshake, energy employers increased outreach to students by 86% over the past year, and internship postings from renewable energy companies were up almost 9%.
  • Early-career talent is increasingly enthusiastic about the energy industry, and particularly about jobs focused on the renewable energy transition. The average number of applications to jobs at renewable energy companies increased by 71% on Handshake over the past year, compared to an increase of just 35% across all industries.
  • The energy industry is attracting more tech majors in the wake of layoffs and hiring freezes at major tech companies. Total applications from tech majors to full-time roles in the energy industry increased by 76% over the past year, and applications to internships were up more than 40%.

The energy industry is in the midst of a massive transition

Against a backdrop of accelerating global climate change, the energy industry is moving aggressively to embrace renewable fuel sources.

Investment in clean energy is increasing:

Energy employers are shifting their hiring strategies to support the switch to renewables:

  • Almost half of new jobs created by energy companies on Handshake this year included keywords related to decarbonization and clean energy in their descriptions, up from less than a third of jobs created three years ago.
  • Current estimates suggest that the energy transition could create more than half a million new job openings by 2030.

To deliver a more sustainable future, all energy employers—including renewable energy providers, public agencies and utilities, and established oil and gas companies—will need an influx of skilled talent. Labor shortages are already a challenge: for example, almost 90% of solar companies reported difficulty finding qualified applicants in 2022. And tech skills will be in especially high demand as energy providers seek out employees who can work with next-generation technology and leverage data to optimize energy systems.

Energy companies are turning to Gen Z to fill critical roles

Gen Z has both the passion and skills to help the energy industry navigate its next chapter. This generation is deeply committed to sustainability and wants to work for companies that share that commitment. They’re also the most tech-savvy generation in history—85% of 2023 graduates have experience with one or more tech skills, such as data analysis, information technology, or software engineering.

Not surprisingly, our data shows that the energy industry is increasingly seeking out Gen Z talent. Energy employers significantly expanded outreach to students on Handshake during the 2022-2023 school year, messaging 86% more students than in 2021-2022. By comparison, outreach across all industries increased by 19%. Energy companies also posted more internships on Handshake this year, and internships at renewable energy companies ticked up by almost 9% year over year.

NextEra Energy, a leading renewable energy infrastructure investor, is one company that’s doubling down on early-career recruiting. “We are always looking for top-notch talent who share our passion for creating a more sustainable future,” says Deb Caplan, Vice President of Human Resources and Corporate Services at NextEra. “This summer, we welcomed our largest intern class to date as part of our NEXT internship program. Program participants work alongside our team to take our business to the next level, putting their fresh ideas and innovative minds to work on projects that will help streamline NextEra Energy’s growth.” NextEra also offers rotation programs for recent grads in engineering, IT, and finance.

Another company expanding its internship program is First Solar, one of the world’s ten largest solar manufacturers and a pioneer in eco-efficiency and responsible production in the solar industry. “We have a long standing and deep commitment to providing meaningful careers, learning and growth for students,” says Eric Johnson, Senior Manager of Talent Acquisition at First Solar. “This year, we’ve welcomed more interns and early career associates to the team than ever before. We believe hiring talented individuals with the passion to contribute toward advancing the fight against climate change is a crucial component of our long-term success.”

Energy technology leader SLB takes a similar approach. "Early-career recruiting has always been part of the SLB culture,” says Lisette Sanchez, US Talent Acquisition Manager. “Every year in the US we hire hundreds of graduates, train them, and launch their continuing learning paths. We provide early responsibility and collaborative opportunities so they become an important part of the company’s success from day one.”

With the increasingly exciting opportunities for early talent in the energy industry, universities are also working proactively to connect students with companies hiring for their skills. Robert Twilley, Vice President for Research & Economic Development at Louisiana State University, emphasizes the importance of companies and higher education coming together to address pressing energy challenges. “LSU collaborates with leading industry partners to find new ways to fuel our nation,” he says. “As the country strives to diversify, protect, and strengthen its energy resources and workforce, LSU is uniting our talented scholars and researchers across disciplines—from engineering to business to law to policy—to directly impact communities and shape the future of energy.”

As the industry evolves, early-career talent is showing strong and growing interest in energy

Applications to roles in the energy industry have increased significantly on Handshake over the past year, and this is especially true for roles with a renewable energy focus. On average, full-time jobs at energy companies received 47% more applications between June 2022 and June 2023 compared to the previous year. The average increase in applications across all roles, by contrast, was just 35%. Jobs at renewable energy companies saw an even sharper uptick in popularity, with the average number of applications per job increasing by 71%.

Sue Harbour, Associate Dean and Executive Director of the University of California Berkeley Career Center, can attest to students’ growing interest in renewable energy jobs. “Interest in careers within clean energy has been on the rise for the last few years at Cal,” she says. “One student organization specifically coordinates an annual career forum connecting clean tech companies to graduating students. Companies like these speak to the personal values and environmental conscientiousness of students today.”

In addition to submitting more applications to organizations that specifically focus on renewable energy, students on Handshake are showing increasing interest in renewables-focused jobs with other energy employers. The following energy organizations stand out as some of the most popular with students over the past year, based on a combination of applications per job, job views, and employer profile views:

Recent tech grads are eager to apply their skills to the energy transition

Many tech students widened their job searches this year in response to layoffs and hiring freezes at big tech companies, and energy is one of the industries benefiting most from this shift. Total applications from tech majors to full-time energy industry jobs increased by 76% between June 2022 and June 2023 compared to the prior year. By comparison, the increase in total applications from tech majors across all industries was just 26%. Energy internships received 43% more applications from tech majors, compared to an increase of 19% across all industries.

Like their peers in other fields, tech majors are especially interested in jobs with a renewable energy focus. Jobs at renewable energy companies received 80% more total applications from core tech majors this year compared to last year, and total applications to internships increased by 46%. Meanwhile, tech students who applied to established oil and gas companies showed a strong preference for jobs that explicitly mentioned sustainability, decarbonization, and related efforts in their descriptions—total applications to these jobs from core tech majors increased by more than 200% year over year, compared to an increase of just 63% for other oil and gas roles.

Andrea Kwiatkowski, an HR Business Partner at DNV—a world-leading resource of independent energy experts and technical advisors—says the company is seeking recent graduates with a wide range of tech skills to support renewable energy initiatives. “There is growing momentum and opportunity in the energy transition,” she says. “Many majors are relevant to the work in the energy sector—a variety of engineering degrees, economics, cyber security, market research, technical writing and more. Early career people who are curious, creative and excited about making a difference are needed in a variety of roles.”

Looking ahead

This is a challenging moment for the energy industry, but it’s also an exciting one. Energy companies are developing and deploying new technologies that have the potential to ensure a healthier future for us and our planet, and early-career talent will play a key role in facilitating this transition. Our data shows that the next generation of clean energy professionals is already in high demand, and they’re ready and eager to get to work.


Industry classifications are based on employer self-identification on the Handshake platform. All companies that self-identified their industry as either Energy, Oil & Gas, or Utilities & Renewables were included in the overall energy industry analysis. Companies were classified as renewable energy companies if they self-identified their industry as Utilities & Renewables and met at least one of the following criteria: appearing on publicly-available listings of the top 100 renewables companies by market capitalization, appearing on lists of top renewables companies provided by industry experts, or containing common renewables keywords (e.g., wind, solar, hydro) in their Handshake profile company name.

Application trends are based on applications to full-time jobs and internships by students and alumni on the Handshake platform between June 1, 2021 and June 1, 2023.

Employer popularity is based on a weighted average of applications per job, job views, and employer profile views between June 1, 2022 and June 1, 2023.

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