The renewables sector should put in place apprenticeship and training schemes to reduce youth unemployment and equip people of all working ages with skills they will be able to use to their advantage throughout their careers.
At its heart, our industry is geared towards sustainable growth, and it is vital that we take the lead on this - not only environmentally, but socially and economically too. At a time of significant development for the industry, recycling and renewable energy developers should capitalise on the opportunity to harness some of the best and brightest talent that the UK has to offer.
We must drive to increase the number of apprenticeships available to the unemployed or those looking for a career change now, so that we can meet the crucial employment demands of our industry in the long term. We are already lagging behind our global competitors.
With stringent government targets, such as that of the Scottish executive to produce 80 per cent of the electricity Scotland consumes from renewable sources by 2020, the renewables industry is experiencing a massive expansion, which is set to continue over coming months and years.
Now is the time to secure an employment base of skilled individuals, who will contribute to this progress and ensure that the green sector's needs are met.
Projects such as that which Lifetime Recycling Village is proposing for the west of Scotland, often involve groundbreaking technology. This requires a specialist skill set from workers onsite, as well as apprentices, who can either remain with the company as their careers progress or go on to benefit from increased employability elsewhere.
The benefits for businesses who take on apprentices are substantial.
At the same time as tackling the problems of skills shortages within an overall workforce, vocational training and apprenticeships can dramatically improve an organisation's competitiveness and productivity. Indeed, research undertaken for the Learning and Skills Council in 2008, showed the majority of employers view taking on apprentices as a more cost effective method of recruitment than other traditional avenues. Many employers also expect their apprentices to go on to fill management roles.
Apprenticeships are not only a means to assist graduates and those yet to join the job market. Retraining to work in the renewables sector is an option which makes perfect sense for those who have a background in other traditional industries, and might be looking for a change of direction, or finding work hard to come by. As business entrepreneur James Caan says: "It may be necessary for some job candidates to realign their skills from traditional industries to new areas."
This is an issue around which a notable political consensus is emerging in Westminster and Holyrood. Chancellor George Osborne announced in the March Budget that an extra £180m will be directed towards expanding the availability of apprenticeships, and the coalition is aiming to create more than 400,000 apprenticeships a year by 2014 to 15.
Neil Gallacher is managing director of Lifetime Recycling Village in Glasgow