What should Carolinians expect, ask for, or watch for in their energy world in 2019? Energy Consumers of the Carolinas asked a handful of energy professionals. This column is about the people in the electric energy workforce, and it is not about something that is changing a lot, but something we hope will change for the better: Finding new entrants for the energy workforce.
There’s demand for electric energy professionals. One study “forecasts the need for 105,000 new workers in the smart grid and electric utility industry by 2030, but expects that only 25,000 existing industry personnel are interested in filling those positions. The remaining 80,000 employees in this supply-demand mismatch will need to be filled through recruiting and training.”
Rocky Sease is owner and CEO of SOS Intl., a company that provides training and compliance solutions for energy companies. Rocky has almost three decades, Rocky has experience in electric utility operations including generation, transmission, distribution and customer service. He said that the industry has not been first choice for new workers: “The electric industry is considered by many to be a lackluster choice for a career. However, the industry has become much more exciting as renewables, energy storage, smart grid, and distributed energy resources are integrated into our nation’s grid.”
There are 6.4 million Americans in various aspects of the energy industry (source). Rocky noted, “Currently, there are more than 100,000 people employed in traditional energy jobs in North and South Carolina. As baby boomers retire and new workers take the helm, workforce development and readiness will be on the radar for utility organizations. Understanding technology and the complexity of managing our electric grid are important for coordinating resources in energy planning, generation, distribution, and transmission, and provide an exciting choice of careers for new workers.”
Work in the power industry is changing fast. An article in CIO [Chief Information Officer] magazine said in, A Next Generation Grid Will Need Input and Participation From the Next Generation: “This generation will very likely create a grid that looks very different than the one that exists today.”
This workforce is good at solving puzzles and wants to be “building something larger than itself” said Rocky.
Sease said the power industry is a good choice as a career. “Exciting careers and a more engaged, educated workforce means more efficiency and better preparation for the rapid pace of change that is undeniable in today’s energy climate. This combination ensures consumers will continue to enjoy reliable, resilient, and sustainable electricity.”
Utilities around the country are doing their part. Here in the Carolinas, for instance, students enrolled in Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College Electronic Instrumentation Technology courses have the chance to work at Cope and Wateree generation stations through a new SCE&G and OCtech co-op program. Duke Energy made grants to the South Carolina Technical College System to expand training opportunities for utility line workers. Tech colleges in both states offer coursework that can help lead to a utility career, many beyond line worker education. Electrical line worker programs are available, for instance, in NC at places such as Forsyth Tech Community College, Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, Cleveland Community College, and Nash Community College.
ECC thinks the electric industry is a good choice for a career. People who enter the industry will make big differences in consumer safety, health and security. They will make a difference in the environment. They will vastly develop their intellect as they work alongside others serving their customers and the country.