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Bridging the Technical Skills Knowledge Gap in the Power and Utilities Industry

Joanne Peralta June 28, 2016 Comments Off on Bridging the Technical Skills Knowledge Gap in the Power and Utilities Industry

Elearning for Technical Training

The knowledge gap between new hires and tenured employees can often be a vast and scary differential. Regardless of industry, this knowledge gap exists, causing workforce productivity and quality challenges. This knowledge gap is particularly prevalent in the Power and Utilities (P&U) industry—across all sub-sectors, including transmission or distribution providers.

Historically, P&U operators have experienced far less turnover than other business sectors where it is not uncommon for an employee to go from “hire to retire” with the same organization. This has compounded the problem since the industry hasn’t been forced to focus efforts on new talent acquisition. Unfortunately, as the current P&U workforce retires, the knowledge gap will become even more pronounced. P&U employees eligible for retirement in 2016 sits at whopping 40.7%. For executives, this number is even bigger at 50%. While employee eligibility remains relatively flat in 2017, the number of executives eligible for retirement will grow to 63.3%.1 Closing the gap between talent and knowledge will require a fresh approach to leveraging training in the industry.

The P&U industry is comprised of workers with a highly technical skill set that requires a deep knowledge base and the ability to troubleshoot problems with quick reaction. Between 2010-2020, it is estimated that 107,300 workers will need to be replaced in the Utility sector.  Overall, 52% of workers within this industry could potentially retire during by 2020.2 Currently, traditional on-the-job training of utility workers is not sustainable. With the increasing retirement eligibility and the generational shift in the utility workforce, the need for documented work processes and procedural training is evident.

A younger workforce is more likely to adapt to new principals and ideas, whereas the current trend seen in the industry is “If it’s worked for the past 20-30 years, why change it now?”  This approach has caused the utility industry to be viewed as antiquated and hierarchical. In the 2013 Accenture College Graduate Employment Survey, utilities ranked third from the bottom out of a potential 25 interesting industries which to work for. Millennials seeking employment are desiring fields that adapt to latest technology, innovative ideas, and new methods. New methods in training the workforce could be the game changer. Currently, 40% of utilities executives believe new technology platforms will underpin their core business models in the future.3

OJT (On the Job Training) Obstacles & Challenges

OJT (On the Job Training) is a common knowledge transfer and training practice in the P&U industry. This peer-to-peer based model, while reliable, can hinder the pursuit of building a high-performance training culture. OJT relies on senior employees to relay and communicate “tribal knowledge” of critical concepts, methods and know how, which has become second nature to them after many years of service. However, the ever-changing operating models for the industry (smart grids, intelligent assets, renewable energy, consumption-based demand and more) and modernization of infrastructure, OJT becomes increasingly complex, hard to measure, costly, and can result in lower workforce productivity.

Blending eLearning with OJT for Technical Skills Training

The pervasive knowledge gap and shortages in industry skill sets justify the need to move towards blended training delivery model, which can be underpinned with a solid eLearning strategy, tools, and content. While eLearning tools and content is not a new concept, when incorporated with traditional training methods, P&U organizations find they can deliver, track, measure, and assess technical skills performance gaps new employees. Additionally, blending eLearning into traditional training methods provides the following cost-benefits:

  1. Improved efficiency with on-demand learning
  2. Cost savings and reduction by reducing the ‘cost-per-course’
  3. Catering to unique learning styles of various staff members
  4. Accelerated on-boarding of new employees & talent retention
  5. Measurement and reporting to assess ongoing performance skill gaps

The Future of Technical Training in Power and Utilities

360training.com was invited as a knowledge partner to present to over 300 learning and development experts at the 2016 Philippine Society for Training and Development annual conference. The session examined the processes required to enhance e-Learning and better develop technical skills that are necessary for workers in the industry. To find more information on the techniques and resources discussed in this conference, and those available for eLearning and closing the learning gap between staff generations, check out our 360 Power & Utilities Library.

 

Sources:

http://www.pwc.com/us/en/power-and-utilities/talent.html

http://midwestenergynews.com/2014/02/04/the-great-crew-change-forces-utilities-to-rethink-hiring/

http://www.scottmadden.com/wp-content/uploads/userFiles/misc/199f13caa5840b3e8cfba4764594d34d.pdf

http://www.elp.com/articles/powergrid_international/print/volume-19/issue-5/features/the-utility-work-force-knowledge-gap-of-transformers.html

https://www.accenture.com/us-en/insight-technology-trends-2016-utilities

  1. The PwC Saratoga 2013/2014 US HumanCapital Effectiveness Report includes data from US operations for more than 300 organizations representing 12 industry sectors for the 2012 calendar year. Utilities sector benchmarks are based on data submitted by a consortium of 29 utilities organizations representing nearly a quarter of a million employees.
  2. 2011 CEWD Survey Results, “Gaps in the Energy Workforce Pipeline”
  3. https://www.accenture.com/us-en/insight-digital-energy-platform-revolution

 

 

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