By James A. Mitchell
The energy industry is facing a skills gap, just like many other industries.
But, as a niche in the workforce, industry leaders have come together to create specific solutions to fill the needed jobs. The end result is an industry-driven workforce initiative, with the notion to solve the problem through research and strength-of-numbers.
“Any one of us doesn’t have the volume needed to attract individuals,” said Stacy Mowrer, co-chair of the Michigan Energy Workforce Development Coalition and director of learning and development for Consumer’s Energy. “Through the partnership in a private consortium we can pursue those on a bigger scale.”
Formed in 2008 to better channel training curriculums into the every-expanding energy fields, the MEWDC has developed a talent pipeline management strategy that applies a practical approach to the problem at each phase, a consolidated effort by educators and industry.
“Colleges have energy programs but they aren’t connected to high schools,” said MEWDC co-chair Tracy DiSanto, manager of workforce planning and analytics at DTE Energy. “We all have to understand those connections.”
The coalition’s efforts were boosted recently by a $90,000 U.S. Chamber of Commerce grant. The MEWDC – whose members include more than 30 businesses, educators and other participants – was one of seven regional partners chosen for the talent management imitative.
Among the first priorities is to ensure that the next wave of new talent will study a common curriculum in what has become one of the fastest-expanding fields. The needed skills for an energy career had previously been embedded in other programs without a specific pathway into the emerging areas of alternative energies and computer technologies.
“As a career cluster energy is as big as health care,” DiSanto said. “That’s what’s been missing. It’s important to have all the information in one place and everyone working toward the same goals.”
Among the coalition’s priorities over the next year will be the development of a career management toolkit to cover a 17-career cluster. The guidelines will aim to address employer needs with training curriculums shaped by industry experts.
“One of the great values is getting the right people in the room,” Mowrer said of the Coalition. “The energy industry overall has been critical in how we move these initiatives forward. We’re gaining a better understanding as we pursue our efforts on a bigger scale.”