Critical Mineral: Human Talent
Highlighting those ushering in the next battery generation
Hello and welcome to Intercalation Station - we’re Andrew & Nick, two energetic individuals in the battery space. This month we’ve partnered with EVera Recruitment, a leading consultancy connecting battery and EV companies with managers, engineers, and technical experts.
👩🏽🔬 Cultivating Talent in Batteries
In this issue, we’re highlighting a critical battery mineral: human talent.
From recruiting for battery companies to developing an internship and PhD curriculum that will foster a generation of battery scientists, to what it takes in strategising at the gigafactory scale - we’ve interviewed industry veterans from across the battery career spectrum:
🔍 Steve Doyle, CEO of EVera Recruitment
Recruiting for the EV era: Steve Doyle is the CEO of the newly launched EVera Recruitment, Europe’s first and only dedicated recruitment consultancy for the battery and EV manufacturing sector. We speak about the growth of the battery job industry and his recruiting philosophy when it comes to choosing career paths.
More than 167+ gigaplants have been announced through 2028, and staffing these factories is now a critically important task. EVera Recruitment has been in the making since 2008 when Steve turned his attention to EV technologies from the broader automotive industry:
“We had previously worked on modules and pack integration, but when we realised just how big the battery industry, that’s when we focused on cells: cylindrical, pouches, prismatic, anodes, cathodes, electrolytes, powders, and the electrochemistry.”
Connecting candidates with the right role requires a keen understanding of the technical details, and Steve’s background in engineering has been a huge asset:
“the knowledge gained as an aerospace and automotive engineer set me apart from other recruiters.”
This is especially true when it comes to gigafactories. Being a new industry in many nations such as the UK necessitates innovative staffing strategies:
“you can’t just google and find slurry technicians … almost everyone going into new gigafactories will not have worked in a gigafactory before.”
Recruiting partners have to understand the advanced manufacturing processes required, and identify talent from near-neighbour skills:
“this may, for example, involve looking at how mixing chocolate powders is similar to making electrode slurries, or how electrolyte filling in pouches is similar to factories that fill soysauce sachets. The processes, equipment, speeds, and volumes are similar to what you would find in gigafactories.”
When asked whether he sees the battery job market as being demand or supply-constrained, Steve sees many transferable and learnable skills from the automotive and near-neighbour industries:
“we will witness the birth of an industry and the death of another, ideally this happens simultaneously.”
Many young graduates entering the battery engineering field may ponder between choosing career paths with young vs established, small vs large firms:
“its not just about being an expert in anode materials and finding a company…EVera helps provide technical understanding but recruiting is also like match-making: do you want to be a small fish in a big sea or a big fish in a small sea? Do you want to know what your job is every day for the next 6 months, your reporting structure, how you fit in the system? All companies have a personality… you should look at flexibility, creativity, and management to ensure the right cultural and technical fit … being happy in the job you have is way more important than most realise.”
🎓 Fran Long, Education & Training Co-ordinator at the Faraday Institution
Fostering the next generation: Fran Long is The Faraday Institution’s Education & Training Coordinator. We speak about her portfolio as an ambassador and champion for equality, diversity, and inclusion in STEM, particularly in batteries.
According to this recent report, 25% of job growth in the battery industry will require PhD-level candidates to fill. Fran’s holistic experience from primary education through to PhD-programme management has impressed on her the importance of a bottom-up approach to increasing STEM engagement:
“It’s not enough to put out job adverts saying the battery industry needs x number of people - all the research suggests we need to inspire young people by the age of 10 … building science capital is key … children are now very aware of climate change, so if we can cast a vision of a career that makes a difference, and how what they’re learning in school can be applied, it’s really exciting and motivating for them.”
Measuring short term impact may be difficult, but the Faraday Institution has already seen positive effects from their outreach and spotlighting of battery career paths, establishing a pipeline for talent in this field:
“Where we have hosted undergraduate attraction events, a number of attendees have subsequently joined our internship programme, and this in turn has fed into our PhD programme… we’re now looking into secondary education opportunities.”
CBESheffield @CBESheffieldUndergraduate Ellie Bibby recently completed the FUSE internship with @FaradayInst she tells us more about her experience and how this internship has helped as she moves into the 3rd year https://t.co/1B8eayErUo #faraday #batteries https://t.co/60SgnZRpys
This year’s Faraday Undergraduate Summer Experience internships were widely advertised, and to great success, providing 50 students with a dynamic and diverse virtual research/work experience:
“We had strong representation from minority groups, 40% female, and 35% first-generation university students in our internship cohort … and actually the remote internships removed some barriers by not having to travel … achievements from the programme were extremely positive and beyond what we could have imagined ”
Fran has also worked with Faraday to craft their PhD training programme to empower talent in the field of energy storage:
“Our vision behind the programme is to raise the knowledge, skills, and aspirations of PhD researchers, whether the choose to go into academia, industry, or policymaking, ensuring they have the tools and network to succeed.”
This includes tailoring the curriculum at each stage of a PhD:
“The first year we focus on the context of where your research sits, understanding the industry need and who the wider collaborators are, second year is a mini battery MBA, looking at entrepreneurship, writing business plans, and third year is also enabling PhDs to undertake internships and to test their skills in another workplace.”
To students and early career researchers, Fran emphasises:
“I am really big on researcher identity. There is always the aspect of how you perform in your role, but also how visible you are in the community - are you communicating your work effectively? This is a key part of the our training programme and as well as learning to be a STEM Ambassador to effectively communicate science in an engaging way to the wider public.”
🧭 Isobel Sheldon, Chief Strategy Officer at Britishvolt
Strategising for tomorrow: Isobel Sheldon is Chief Strategy Officer for Britishvolt, the UK’s first large scale cell gigafactory. We speak about her journey with batteries, and her advice to those entering the field from research.
In 2003, Isobel founded an engineering company focused on EVs and lithium batteries:
“We became one of the first people to deploy lithium batteries to covert the Toyota Prius into a plug-in Hybrid (PHEV). We sold them to early adopters and as a result I become the first person in the world to commercially sell plug-in hybrids.”
Isobel has continued to build her industry-leading expertise in lithium-ion batteries, bringing her commitment to relentless progress into her current role in strategy:
“I came out of my own business in 2013 and worked for Ricardo, Johnson Matthey, Cummins, UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC), and then onto Britishvolt. In total, I have had nearly 20 years in the lithium-ion battery industry”
Directing a battery manufacturing project requires simultaneously handling strategy, engineering, and management. A typical day covers the whole gamut:
“Everyday I am dealing with technical and material topics, steering the direction of the technical team, stepping up to my responsibilities for co-managing the business as a board director and shaping the architecture of the business in its customer focused drive to become the world's greenest and highest performing battery producer.”
Working at the highest level means making composed judgment calls. Great leaders must also take into consideration the opinions of their collaborators:
“This responsibility drives me to be better every single day, but also drives me to make sure that my ideas and thoughts for the future are calibrated with my fellow directors. Others perspective are absolutely necessary to ensure a good balance to the decision making within the company.”
When questioned on what skills researchers in electrochemistry and battery science should build to bring maximum value to gigafactories like Britishvolt, Isobel offered this insight, stressing an understanding of the greater business environment of batteries:
“A real understanding of the end user experience for EVs and the system-level engineering to deliver products that customers want to own and drive. We have to make EVs desirable and this really starts with the chemistry of the active materials that drive the whole performance and value proposition. Batteries represent about 40% of the value of an electric vehicle so understanding how they will be used and what is expected of them is critical to success. The economics of technology choice is also critically important as we have to deliver value and experience.”
💼 EVera Opportunities
We’ve picked out some UK jobs listed on EVera’s job database:
Electrochemistry specialist - Britishvolt, Midlands
Senior Battery Cell Design Engineer - Britishvolt, Midlands
Battery Cell Simulation Engineer - Britishvolt, Midlands
Electrode Process Engineer - Britishvolt, Midlands
Thermal Analysis Engineer - Warwickshire
BMS Engineer - Warwickshire
Electrochemist - London
Are you looking to build a successful team in the EV and battery industry? Get in touch with EVera Recruitment now
🌞 THANKS FOR READING!
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About the writers: Andrew is an engineering science PhD student at the University of Oxford (@ndrewwang). Nicholas is a business manager at UCL Business and involved in physical science and computer science startups in London (@nicholasyiu).