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ECEDHA MEETING Plenary Panel VI: The Future Role of Energy in the ECE Curriculum Horacio J. Marquez Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering University of Alberta Edmonton, Alberta Canada March 20, 2007 Outline Statistics from the power sector* Discuss possible implications. *

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Plenary Panel VI: The Future Role of Energy in theECE CurriculumHoracio J. MarquezChair of Electrical and Computer EngineeringUniversity of AlbertaEdmonton, AlbertaCanadaMarch 20, 2007

  • Statistics from the power sector*
  • Discuss possible implications.


*Keeping the Future Bright, 2004 Canadian Electricity Human Resource Sector Study, Produced by the Canadian Electricity Association.

the need for electric power
The Need for Electric Power
  • Western economy relies on electricity
  • Disruptions in supply have immediate large scale impacts.
  • The power sector, in turn, depends on well trained and experienced workers which are essential to ensure long-term stability of electrical supply in North America.
  • The skill sets required for the next generation of workers may be substantially different from today.
night view of the world
Night View of the World

The picture shows human dependence on electric energy, particularly in the developed countries. The electric power grid is the most complex man-made networks in the world – far more complex than the internet.

canadian electricity generation
Canadian Electricity Generation
  • Third largest electricity producer in the world on a per-capita basis.
  • Production increased 10% in the last 10 years
  • Most diversified generation in the world

- 60% Hydro

- 24.2% Thermal (coal/gas)

- 12.4% Nuclear

- 3.4% Other (wind, solar, etc)

  • In the last 10 years the fastest growing generation source was natural gas at 132% increase.
  • It is anticipated that wind will grow the fastest in the coming 10 years
employment statistics
Employment Statistics
  • Total workforce 76,000-95,000
  • Average employee tenure: 17 years
  • Annual attrition is 4.1%, 3% of which due to is retirement.
  • 17% of the workforce will be eligible for retirement in the next 5 years
  • 37% is eligible for retirement by 2014.
  • Based on retirement estimates, the sector will need 9,000 people in technical positions over the next 5 years and more than 17,000 by 2014.
  • … and salaries in the electricity sector are 84% above the national average.
aging workforce
Aging Workforce

The following graph shows the age distribution in the electricity sector

- 28.8% of the engineers are over 50 years old

- 15% are below 30.

In the US, the average age is 48, nearly 4 years older that the national average

the impact of retirement
The Impact of Retirement
  • Retirement is a serious problem in this industry
  • A shortage of engineers and skilled workers could diminish the capacity of the electricity sector in many ways:

- Reduced reliability

- Increased cost of production

- Infrastructure projects delayed

- Decreased safety and production due to worker shortages.

We are not producing enough engineers to supply to this industry.

declining canadian labour force
Declining Canadian Labour Force
  • The population that provides the base for the Canadian Labour force was increasing at 1.2% annually.
  • By 2010, it is expected that labour force growth will have dropped to 0.5% and it is expected to continue falling.
  • This deceleration is already occurring, and will peak at the point where employee retirements are expected to increase.
is immigration the solution
Is Immigration the Solution?
  • Can immigration help meet industrial labour needs
  • Most immigrants settle in the largest cities, only 4% settle outside of a major urban centre.
  • Immigrants chose to settle in a metro where they have contacts rather than another area with employment prospects.
  • Only 4 in 10 foreign credentials are able to achieve validation of their credentials in the Canadian educations system
  • Only 3 in 10 will find employment in their area of skill.
demand gap for engineering canada
Demand Gap for Engineering (Canada)

Number of Engineers in the workforce:

Estimated Supply-Demand Gap per-year

Estimated Total Projected Deficit for the period

why is this happening
Why is this happening?
  • Many reasons:

- Declining workforce.

- Youth consulted had little or no awareness of the electricity sector as a career option. Employers share this view.

- Statistics show that only 5% of engineers work in the utility sector.

- Only a very small fraction of the recent electrical and mechanical engineering graduates were hired to work in the electricity sector.

but more importantly
But, More Importantly…
  • Is this our problem?
  • Should ECE Departments commit effort and resources to fix the labor problems of the electricity sector?
  • Is this problem rooted in changes to the ECE curriculum?
some facts to consider
Over he past 2-3 decades, most Electrical Engineering programs have drastically reduced the number of power systems-power electronics courses in the ECE curriculum.

- power companies always complain that EE graduates

are not well prepared to work in the electricity sector;

even those who graduate from schools with strong

power programs

At the same time, most schools have reduced the number of faculty members with research interests in power systems.

Or perhaps the previous two points should be listed in reverse order…

- But there are good reasons for these changes –

Some Facts to Consider
facts to consider cont
Facts to Consider (Cont.)
  • When planning an ECE Department we look to hire in areas of growing interest with the potential to have an impact in the future.
  • Over the past 20-30 years, many important things have outgrown the power area in importance. For the past 2 decades hiring has focused on (partial list)

- wireless communications and wireless networks

- VLSI, electronics

- Digital signal and image processing

- Computer Engineering (all areas)


- photonics

- nanoengineering (more recently)

but on the other hand
But, On the Other Hand…
  • Power systems is important:

- (Claim) power systems is one of the fundamental building blocks that make electrical engineering, electrical engineering.

  • (Claim) Strengthening the power content in ECE curriculums can:

- generate new interest in ECE programs

- bring awareness of the importance and/or existence of the electricity sector as a career option

- attract employers and strengthen contact with industrial partners.

keys to success
Keys to Success
  • Increased visibility of the power area.

promotion is overwhelming in nanoengineering, biomed, communications, etc, but uncommon in the power sector, except for Kyoto and high utility prizes.

  • Modernize the image of the power sector

Student view power systems as rather old… and boring… (isn’t that why we stopped hiring ???)

  • Show that employment opportunities are good… and will remain strong.
1 increased visibility
1) Increased Visibility
  • Here is where industry should play a role:

- The power industry should invest in enhancing the visibility of their sector.

  • One way to do that is through the establishment of industrial chairs (via endowments or other programs)
  • The branding of an industrial chair brings instant attention on campus. Students are often attracted to the activities of the chair.
2 modernize the power sector
2) Modernize The Power Sector
  • This is hard, but in the future we will see more activities in

- Alternative energy sources (wind, solar)

- high efficiency combustion turbines

- distributed generation and automation

- hybrid systems

- Power line networking

  • There are also interesting connections with other “hot” areas

- Nano engineered insulating materials

3 sustained employability
3) Sustained Employability
  • Long term employment is the key to student attraction.

- Engineering has always attracted students interested in math and physics … who chose engineering over science because of better jobs prospects…

- But, in recent years, Electrical engineering jobs are not perceived as been as “secure” as they once were.

  • Industry (power and others) can help make this case.
a focus on energy opportunities for the future
A Focus on Energy: Opportunities for the Future
  • There is a strong recent support for activities and expansions in the “energy sector.”
  • In Canada, several Engineering Schools are expanding their programs in this area. These expansions will benefit programs in (partial list)

- Electrical Engineering

- Chemical Engineering

- Mechanical Engineering

- Environmental Engineering

- Materials Engineering

- Nanoengineering

university of alberta situation24
University of Alberta Situation
  • Strong faculty growth is generating strong student interest:

- in 1996 the entrance requirement in the faculty of engineering was a high school average of 74%.

- in 2006 is was 80% and the number of students entering has more than doubled.

- the average grade of the students entering first year was 87%.

- 30% of the students entering first year had a GPA of 90% or higher.

- The Faculty is now discussing raising the entrance requirements to avoid overcrowding.

in summary
In Summary

Power Systems is a traditional area of Electrical Engineering.

New developments in the area justify re-introducing power in the EE curriculum.