Basque Government-funded recruitment organisation aims to create ‘brain drain’ in Scotland’s renewables industry
A recruitment organisation backed by the government of the Basque Country to fill a skills gap is setting its sights on creating a “brain drain” in Scotland by targeting employees who have learned their trade in the Scottish green energy industry.
Bizkaia Talent is working to poach highly skilled workers in the renewables industry from Scotland to work in the semi-autonomous Basque Country amid what it has dubbed a “talent war” in the sector.
The organisation, which is funded by the Basque Government and the provincial Government of Biscay, held a recruitment event in Edinburgh for the first time, where it hoped to target Spanish and Basque engineers who had previously relocated to Scotland to return home. The event pushed lifestyle differences, such as weather and food, as reasons why native Basque and Spanish employees should ditch their lives in Scotland in favour of life in the region in the north of Spain.
"It is our aim,” said director Ivan Jímenez, when asked if the organisation expects its plans could create a brain drain within the Scottish renewables industry.
"We have nothing against Scotland, but of course, it's not bad for us to try to recover the talent that came here. It's very clear that there is a very big competition when it comes to highly qualified professionals.”
He added: "This is the first time that we have organised a meeting like this in Scotland. The result has been quite positive. At the end of the conference, we asked them whether they see themselves living in and working in the Basque Country in five years time. And 70 per cent of them told us yes: that's good news.”
The Basque Country, which was granted the status of nationality within Spain in 1978, is targeting green talent among the estimated 25,000 Spanish nationals in Scotland. The region, like Scotland, has a strong reputation for renewables.
Iberdrola, which owns ScottishPower, is headquartered in the region, in the city of Bilbao. The green energy industry estimated at the end of the pandemic that 600 highly skilled jobs would be created in the region over the coming years.
Mr Jímenez says “post-Brexit conditions” are “compounding Scotland’s challenge to attract and retain top talent” – and wants to convince those workers to leave.
"The main reason usually is the quality of life, which involves a good healthcare system and good, free education,” he said. “We are talking also about safety and public services that are for free in the Basque Country, especially for people who are starting, or thinking about starting, a family.
“It's true, that salaries are higher in Scotland in general than in the Basque Country. But we take into consideration also the cost of living, the differences are not so big.”
Nick Sharpe, director of communications and strategy at Scottish Renewables, said: “Scotland’s renewable energy industry is a hotbed of exceptional talent, with more than 27,000 people already helping us move towards a clean energy system, with that number set to increase rapidly in the years ahead.
“Our research shows that every gigawatt of renewable electricity installed in Scotland creates 1,500 jobs. To meet Scotland’s net-zero targets we need to build another 11GW of onshore wind by 2030, while a 27GW pipeline of offshore wind projects has been established following last year’s ScotWind leasing round. We will need tens of thousands of people to support this ambition.”
He added: “Fortunately, we already have some of the finest people from all over the world working in our industry and as we transition to a fossil fuel free future we will continue to need the best people with the best skills.”
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