Equal Opportunities in Solar Power: Elgin Energy and DCU’s Access to the Workplace Programme

Kathryn Whyte is the Culture and Communications Business Partner at Elgin Energy, a leader in the field of solar energy. In this piece, Kathryn explains why Elgin Energy is proud to support DCU’s Access to the Workplace Programme.

What inspired Elgin Energy to take part in the Access to the Workplace Programme?

Solar in Ireland is a really new area. One of the first solar farms on the island of Ireland was Bann Road farm, this was a project developed by Elgin Energy. This solar farm can supply up to 340,000 homes with clean energy. There isn’t yet a wide knowledge of what solar really looks like in an Irish context. When people hear renewable energy, they still think of wind first. We wanted to share the knowledge of solar power with young people coming through university and show them why it’s a great option for their future careers and more broadly for society.

The Access to the Workplace Programme aims to level the playing field for students who experience disadvantage in the workplace. How does this support Elgin Energy’s own values as a company?

One of our four values is integrity; we want to give fair and equal opportunities to everyone. At Elgin, those of us in leadership positions strive to be conscious of our own privilege, and we understand that not everyone has the same connections through school or family. Access to the Workplace gives us an opportunity to share those connections more fairly and ensure our industry offers more equal opportunities.

How did the placement go this year?

It was excellent. Daniel added a lot of energy (pun intended!) and enthusiasm to the team. We have had DCU interns join our teams for a few years now, so we were well prepared to share what Elgin life is really like. We would be delighted to have him back.

How has Elgin Energy benefitted from having a student working with them this summer?

Access to the Workplace has given the staff in Elgin the opportunity to manage someone over a short time and to build up their leadership and mentoring skillsets. We were also able to undertake more time-intensive projects with Daniel contributing to our team. For example, we have launched a new project that will see us expand our solar energy offering to include storage as well as delivery. We are looking to deliver several new solar farms in Ireland, and we’re looking forward to sharing this exciting experience with our next Access to the Workplace intern. They’ll see what it’s like to not only develop solar farms, but to construct them as well.

Why would you recommend that other companies participate in the programme?

So many factors of the Access to the Workplace programme were amazing. It was great to open the door for someone who might not otherwise have had the opportunity to take part in an internship, but who excelled once they had the chance. The Elgin staff were inspired by the impact this has on people from all walks of life. Hopefully we also inspired Daniel to go back to DCU and tell other students about the wonderful world of solar power.

Daniel grew up in Ballymun, and chose to study engineering at DCU after excelling in maths and physics at school. Here, he describes his experience as an Access to the Workplace intern with Elgin Energy.

“I’m studying Mechanical and Sustainability Engineering at DCU, so I thought participating in Access to the Workplace would be a good chance for me to gain experience for my course and for my future. I’ve had a couple of jobs before, but this was my first experience in engineering. I didn’t really know what to expect, because I had never worked in that sort of environment.

When I started in Elgin, the atmosphere was great and the people were even better. I had a great time. I was on the project development team, so my role was to research potential new projects and search for possible new sites. Along with that, I also attended a lot of meetings that filled me in on different projects.

I think I got on really well at Elgin because I’m so open to learning and asking questions. I wanted to make the most of it and I think I brought a new energy to the team. They were more than happy to help me and make sure I had a great experience. I think it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made career-wise as an engineer. I wouldn’t get that experience anywhere else. I don’t personally know anyone who works in the field, and I wouldn’t have the connections otherwise.

This experience will 100% help me with my studies. It’s given me a very different insight into the renewable energy industry. The things I learned at Elgin, I wouldn’t have learned anywhere else, especially about solar energy, the whole process from planning on paper to actually building solar panels. Now I know a lot that I didn’t know beforehand in terms of all the logistics, and the legal and financial investment that goes into it. Almost all of the managers I met at Elgin suggested I should come back to the company after I graduate, either in Ireland or in the UK – and it’s incredible to have that kind of opportunity open to me.”

Interested in Supporting Access?