From Scott Carlberg

77 percent of employers in the energy industry say they have difficulty hiring qualified workers. Three in ten employers say it is actually “very difficult.” (Source)

Seems like a good place to find a career, if you are qualified or willing to learn. It is also a good way to support our states – hiring, getting paid, contributing to Carolina communities. Let’s take a look during this “back to school” time of year.

Battery storage – evolving tech/skills. Image: Duke Energy gallery.

Energy companies have a lot of well-established, well-known positions. Finance, human resources and engineering, for instance. Bedrock kinds of jobs that are part of many industries.

Energy companies have white and blue collar jobs (sometimes called craft jobs) that are changing and in demand, too. But there is a twist. “While the fundamental principles of power engineering have been around for a long time, the application of these principles continues to change. The principles, combined with a more sophisticated electric system which include renewables, distributed energy resources, and new technologies, requires capable employees operating the evolving electric grid.” Rocky Sease, Owner and CEO, SOS Intl, a training and certification company based in Charlotte.

The tech thread runs through energy jobs: “Technology is king. The use of technology—and the changes to technology—have progressed beyond evolutionary and border on revolutionary.” That is from the Center for Energy Workforce Development (CEWD).

CEWD put together a chart about the challenges facing the energy workforce. Those are the items in red:

  • Energy Generation Transformation: New ways to make power such as solar and wind add new skills to the workforce.
  • Customer Expectations: Consumers have more choices in the way they account for energy use and in some cases can even generate their own power.
  • Enabling Technologies: These include more data analysis and data management needs for power companies for their plants and to help customers.
  • Transitioning Workforce: In addition to changes with new job skills, Baby Boomers are retiring, and with them, so are years of energy knowledge.
  • Business/Work Restructuring: Some jobs become automated. Workers need high tech skills to manage these jobs. The business model of energy companies is changing as they merge and become more efficient.
  • Strategic Workforce Focus: Energy companies need certain specific skills and are competing not against other energy companies, but pharmaceuticals, aerospace, information technology, and maybe even video gaming companies, for creative data talent.

Add to these skills two more that I have repeatedly heard on the list: Good communication skills and project management skills. Those are far from technical needs and anyone looking for a job can pursue them on his or her own. People who do well in those can have an edge on other candidates.

“Lack of experience, training, or technical skills was almost universally cited as the top reason for hiring difficulty by employers … The need for technical training and certifications was also frequently cited,” says the 2019 U.S. Energy and Employment Report.

So, job hopefuls: Self-development is critical. Employers need to see individual initiative to consider someone as a candidate.

Happily, North and South Carolina have places to get energy training and education. Some examples…

Horry Georgetown Technical College image

Let’s start with the most visible workers in the power industry, line workers. Training for line and craft workers is done across the Carolina’s. Some examples:

On a broader scale, Piedmont Community College has a program in electrical power production, helping graduates find entry-level employment in the operation of non-nuclear fueled power facilities. Some of the topics: Steam turbines, generators, control logic, equipment maintenance, and environmental control equipment.

On a community level, Aiken Works helps train students for various career fields after they graduate, said the Aiken Standard recently. The program started three years ago. “‘About 50% of today’s workforce in this area is getting close to retiring,’ said Larry Millstead, Aiken Works Lead.  ‘Who replaces that? And the who is these students that are in our classrooms today.’” Good thinking.

Good craft training is often as close as the nearest community or tech college, or check workforce development boards in your area. CEWD has a website with a training locator. Just put in your zip code for results.

In Part Two of our Back to School blog we will look at university energy education in the Carolina’s. Until then, check this article in Power Technology. It looks at employment in the energy industry, dividing it into several segments: Fuels, electric power generation, transmission / distribution / storage, energy efficiency, and alternative fuels for vehicles.

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Blog feature image from Duke Energy photo gallery.