Harvard Business Review explains how to solve the talent shortage

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By: SGN Staff

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Quick Take: The electric power industry can be forgiven if it's getting a little numb from a non-stop parade of crises and calamities. Cybersecurity! Net metering! EPA regulations! Consumer backlash! And the list goes on. Meanwhile, there's a genuine catastrophe simmering on the back burner – namely, the pending retirement of many of the industry's most talented engineers and executives.

 

Two IBM executives have penned a short piece on the Harvard Business Review blog that provides some suggestions. What a refreshing change. We so often get warnings of the crisis-of-the-week. And we so seldom get suggested solutions.- By Jesse Berst

 

Thirty to forty percent of the 400,000 individuals employed by U.S. utilities are expected to retire or leave by 2013, according to a June, 2013 report by the Task Force on America's Future Energy Jobs at the Bipartisan Policy Center. At the same time, roughly 60,000 additional workers will be needed by 2030 to operate and maintain electric generation systems as new technologies such as wind and solar come online. In the near term, more than 90,000 people will be needed to deploy smart grid technologies.

 

IBM executives Michael Valocchi and Mozhi Habibi say there are ways to solve the looming talent shortage. They include:

·         Grooming more data scientists, who are essential to create value from the massive amounts of data now pouring in from sensors and smart meters. What's more, they can help develop digital repositories of best practices so that fewer workers can do more work.

·         Getting the attention of the next generation. Some utilities are partnering with local colleges to start training talent.

·         Encouraging trade skills. Traditional vocational and technical programs are also part of the answer.

 

The smartest utilities are seeing this not just as a challenge, but also as an opportunity. They are using it as an excuse to transform their organizations, "aggressively recruiting for digital fluency at all levels."

 

Jesse Berst is the founder and Chief Analyst of SGN and Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, an industry coalition.

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