(BPT) - A U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) panel discussion recently touted alternative energy adoption as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revitalize manufacturing in the United States. Among those who have the most to gain are Gen Zers.
With the recent establishment of sustainability goals and corresponding investments and incentives from state and federal governments, the need for energy storage solutions is growing. Driving this growth and adoption of alternate energy storage solutions is the declining cost and maturity of technology for stationary storage applications complementing wind and solar as well as mass electric vehicle adoption.
'We are at the cusp of widespread alternative energy adoption, which requires the ability to efficiently manufacture and deliver proven energy storage solutions,' said Jennifer de Souza, DOE discussion panelist and vice president of energy, procurement and leasing at The Raymond Corporation.
Energy storage solutions, mainly composed of battery systems, help increase the value of clean technologies by allowing renewable energy to be stored and used as needed, rather than at the time of generation.
Being able to domestically manufacture battery cells as well as battery assemblies is a critical step in facilitating alternative energy adoption. It also helps ensure efficiencies gained through alternative energy use are not offset by higher transportation-driven energy trade-offs. With the high costs of importing energy storage technology, having a stable domestic supply of energy storage solutions will help the country take full advantage of the move toward a more sustainable future.
'These devices can be large and heavy, making logistics challenging. With the added regulation surrounding the shipment of assembled lithium batteries, minimizing transportation is an essential consideration. Localizing supply chains helps to ensure availability and uptime, so manufacturers and end users will look to reduce supply chain risk wherever possible,' de Souza noted.
As alternative energy adoption proliferates, there is a critical need for a range of skilled workers to develop, design and manufacture battery systems, including engineers, chemists and line workers.
In many ways, battery system manufacturing aligns with Gen Z's reported career priorities and preferences. Recent reports highlight this age demographic's desire to work in roles that provide a sense of purpose (over higher pay). Additional research shows a company's sustainability efforts are a decision factor for some Gen Zers when accepting an offer.
Yet, there is seemingly a gap between how important battery manufacturing is to a green energy-fueled future and Gen Z's desire to work in a manufacturing role.
A 2021 survey of 1,000 18- to 24-year-olds found that more than half were neutral or disinterested in a manufacturing career. Notably, nearly one-third of those respondents believe manufacturing roles are low-skilled, manual jobs.
'Effective collaboration between industry and educational institutions, including both secondary and primary schools, to ensure we're cultivating the desire and skill set to fill the green manufacturing jobs of tomorrow is one of the most important actions we can take today to fully realize the opportunity green energy presents tomorrow,' de Souza said.
The good news is, according to LinkedIn's Global Green Skills Report 2022, the portion of green talent - job seekers with the background and skills that support environmental sustainability - has seen a nearly 40% growth rate globally from 2015 to 2022.
Plus, continued efforts that highlight future careers in modern manufacturing - such as The Raymond Corporation's monthlong self-guided virtual education program for middle and high school students - are helping the newest generation of American workers keep an open mind when it comes to career prospects.
'As we move toward a more sustainable future, with an increased reliance on technology like electric vehicles, the need for efficient alternate power solutions continues to grow exponentially,' de Souza said. 'Gen Z will help us revitalize America's manufacturing industry and help shape our greener future.'