Who’s going to keep the lights on when the baby boomers retire?

Light SwitchMany baby boomers are already enjoying their golden years away from work and many more are heading towards retirement. This is not news – it’s been in the pipeline for 60 years!

But what about the consequences? There’s a big headache on the horizon for utilities companies when this section of their workforce heads off into the sunset…taking their knowledge and expertise with them.

A 2011 US survey* revealed that over the next decade, 36% of skilled utility technicians and engineers (positions that have been identified as critical for the industry) will need to be replaced because of retirement or attrition. This figure will increase by an additional 16% by 2020.

In other words, around 110,000 people (52%) in the most critical positions of the utilities industry in the US will be ‘gone’ in less than 10 years.

While some employees are staying longer in jobs than they might have in the past for economic reasons, there are approximately 18,000 critical utility employees who are considered to be “Ready Now” and could retire at any time.

These are startling statistics.

What can these companies do to mitigate the situation?

  • Support existing efforts to balance the supply and demand problem – even though many utilities acknowledge the aging workforce is a problem, they’re hanging on to their existing workers and aren’t recruiting enough younger employees to fill key roles, such as Line workers and Technicians. Education and training programs within utilities can reduce the skills gaps and provide measurable benefits to those organizations.
  • Outsource to others – for some organizations using third party suppliers makes sense, but for many small and medium sized utilities the cost of outsourcing these roles could be unrealistic.
  • Build partnerships with the education, labor, government sectors and technology companies to highlight your issues and solve problems – while partnerships with the education, labor, government sectors will drive energy and focus to this problem, engaging the companies that provide your technology products to manage the technology would also reduce the staff workload and provide guaranteed service levels.

* SOURCE: Gaps in the Energy Workforce Pipeline, 2011 Center for Energy Workforce Development Survey Results

What else do you think utility organizations can do now to make sure they can “keep the lights on”?

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