Training Energy’s Labor Force

Albany Township, PA. Photo by Nicholas Tonelli, some rights reserved.

As natural gas is booming, the industry is teaming up with the Labor Department to address a growing skills gap. Energy and utility industries are in growing need of skilled workers, especially those with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering, and math, and apparently these workers are becoming harder to find. Interviewed by The Hill, a Labor Department official expressed concern that the biggest obstacle to emerging energy industries is a shortage of workers with appropriate skills.

One way Labor is addressing the issue is by developing school curricula and supporting workforce-training programs. The Labor Department awarded a $15 million grant to western Pennsylvania community colleges’ training programs that feed workers into the region’s booming natural gas industry. If the program is successful, it could be replicated in North Dakota and other areas with growing energy industries. Energy firms are involved in the effort, donating equipment for training and supporting a nonprofit consortium to develop curricula and offer apprenticeships.

The electric utility industry, too, is facing the challenge of training a new workforce for the changing industry as many workers plan to retire in the coming years. Utilities are seeking workers with a new skill profile, combining electrical engineering with information technology, and sometimes struggling to find qualified workers to work on new “smart-grid” technology.

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