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Workforce Challenges of Electric Sector Employers. Summary of Research Findings Alan Hardcastle Senior Research Associate June 26, 2008. Mossy Rock Dam Photo courtesy of Tacoma Power. Electric Sector Workforce Study Sponsors. Center of Excellence for Energy

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Workforce Challenges of Electric Sector Employers

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workforce challenges of electric sector employers

Workforce Challenges of Electric Sector Employers

Summary of

Research Findings

Alan Hardcastle

Senior Research Associate

June 26, 2008

      • Mossy Rock Dam
  • Photo courtesy of Tacoma Power
electric sector workforce study sponsors
Electric Sector Workforce Study Sponsors
  • Center of Excellence for Energy

Technology, Centralia College

  • IBEW Local 77
  • Lewis County EDC
  • Pacific Mountain WDC
  • State Board for Community

& Technical Colleges

  • Tacoma Power
  • Thurston-Lewis-Mason

Central Labor Council

      • Stator units at Grand Coulee Dam Third Powerplant
  • Photo courtesy of United States Bureau of Reclamation
electric sector workforce survey purpose and design
Electric Sector Workforce SurveyPurpose and Design
  • Needs assessment of the industry
    • Existing data insufficient
    • Understand workforce issues
    • Benchmark for HR planning
    • Boost responsiveness
  • 12 Regional employers
    • WA and OR
    • Industry composition
  • Five key occupational groups:
    • Operator
    • Line Worker
    • Mechanic
    • Electrician
    • Technician

Line School Instructor

Photo courtesy of Avista

national context three major factors
National Context: Three Major Factors
  • Impending Retirements
  • Shrinking Labor


  • Knowledge and

Skill Gaps

          • Maintenance employees walk through the juvenile fish bypass
  • Photo courtesy of Chelan County PUD
regional context
Regional Context
  • Economic Impact
  • Workforce demographics
  • Future labor supply
  • Education and training
          • Workers service a wind turbine at the Nine Mile Canyon Facility
  • Photo courtesy of Energy Northwest
electricity demand increasing
Electricity Demand Increasing
  • Between 2003-2025 electricity demand in the Pacific Northwest is forecast to increase by around 40 percent (around 7,000 aMW)

Source: Northwest Power and Conservation Council, 2005

electric power generation
Electric Power Generation

Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, 2007.

problem 1 an aging workforce
Problem 1: An Aging Workforce
  • Nationally, the average age of utility craft workers is 50 years old.
    • Highest average age of any industry sector
  • Around 50% of U.S. utility workers are projected to retire over the next 10 years
    • 200,000 highly-skilled workers will exit

Source: Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)

      • Mobile Workstation
  • Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Energy
problem 2 skill shortages
Problem 2: Skill Shortages

Source: Washington State Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board, 2006.

survey results topics covered
Survey ResultsTopics Covered
  • Current and future employment demand
    • Employment levels and future hiring
    • Retirement forecasts and replacement
    • Hiring challenges
  • Workforce and succession plans, strategies
  • Partnerships with colleges, others
  • Apprenticeship/pre-apprenticeship
  • Outreach to K-12 schools, students
key hiring challenges
Key Hiring Challenges
  • General shortage of qualified applicants
  • Occupational shortages cut across industry sectors
  • Increased recruiting and hiring costs
  • Filling the skills gap with subcontractors and overtime
  • Adjusting hiring expectations and processes
  • Work conditions as a challenge to recruiting and hiring
  • A lack of workforce diversity
  • Specific jobs: Line workers, technicians and electricians
  • Engineering (EEs)
workforce succession planning
Workforce & Succession Planning
  • Few employers have formalized processes
  • Internal/external drivers
  • Informal approach typical
  • Management focus
  • New commitment to planning
  • Effective models in use
  • Implementation challenges
two year college connections
Two-Year College Connections
  • Limited in number and scope
    • Apprenticeship
    • Recruiting/hiring priority
  • Internal focus
  • Notable partnerships
  • Reaching out
      • Control Center
  • Photo courtesy of TransAlta
apprenticeship issues
Apprenticeship Issues
  • A Big Investment
    • “For an apprentice, it’s a three year program, a half-million dollar investment. So we’re serious about making sure they’ll succeed.”
  • ROI
    • “We need to spend the money to get them through an apprenticeship, but we also need to look at retention. We can’t keep stealing from each other.”
  • Expanding Capacity
pre apprenticeship training
Pre-Apprenticeship Training
  • Eight employers routinely hire new employees into trainee-level positions that are preparatory to various craft occupations.
    • High school graduates
    • Locals as trainees
    • Develop a pool for regular apprenticeships
  • Resistance/support from Unions
k 12 outreach
K-12 Outreach
  • Building a K-12 pipeline
  • More strategic
    • Specific recruiting goals
    • ROI
  • Competing priorities
  • Image problem
  • Skills and knowledge


      • Setting a Pole
  • Photo courtesy of Snohomish County PUD
conclusions challenges
Conclusions (Challenges)
  • Labor shortages already here, will worsen
  • Recruiting and hiring challenges increasing
  • Workforce and succession planning informal
      • McNary Substation in Umatilla Oregon
  • Photo courtesy of Bonneville Power Administration
conclusions challenges 2
Conclusions (Challenges 2)
  • Two-year college connections limited
  • Apprenticeship capacity insufficient
  • K-12 outreach underdeveloped
      • System Control Map
  • Photo courtesy of Grays Harbor PUD
  • Retirement effect:
    • Skills vacuum
    • Replacement churn
    • Limited labor pool
    • Wage pressure
    • Competitive disadvantage
  • Is Industry Prepared?
      • IBEW Local 77 Apprentices raise the US flag at the Center of Excellence for Energy Technology 2007 Energy Summit
  • Photo courtesy of Seattle City Light
implications 2
Implications – 2
  • Short and long-term strategies, solutions
    • Encourage employees to delay retirements
    • Re-hire retirees to fill skill gaps, train new workers
    • Restructure jobs, increase use of technologies
    • Expand internal and external training options
    • Increase use of incentives, pay and benefit options to attract and retain workers
  • Restore apprenticeship capacity
  • Expand college partnerships: skills, innovative new programs, career options
implications 3
Implications – 3
  • To boost labor supply, grow the pipeline
  • Outreach to students, parents, educators
    • Build awareness, re-define the image
    • Reinforce skill requirements (STEM)
    • Work-based learning opportunities
  • The future workforce: women, minorities
  • Expand education and training capacity
  • Coordinated action for industry support
future research
Future Research
  • Engineering workforce: Engineering workforce demand and skill requirements
  • Apprenticeship: Analysis of apprenticeship trends and capacity issues for craft occupations
  • Succession planning: Best Practices model for workforce and succession planning
  • Renewable energy and energy efficiency: Analysis of current/future job demand and skills for clean energy occupations
electric sector workforce challenges
Electric Sector Workforce Challenges

Next Steps:

  • Disseminate Study
  • Presentations to Industry

and Stakeholders

  • Future Research and Action


Alan Hardcastle

Senior Research Associate

WSU Energy Program

(360) 956-2167

  • Bigelow Canyon sunrise
  • Photo courtesy of Portland General Electric