BC Hydro workers install new power lines. (Black Press Media files)

Keeping Canada’s power on will require 20,000 new workers by 2022

Almost 107,000 people are employed directly in the electricity industry in Canada

Canada’s electricity providers say they need to appeal to a younger and more diverse workforce if they’re going to keep the country’s lights on.

A new report on the industry’s labour needs from Electricity Human Resources Canada suggests at least 20,500 new workers will be needed in power plants and transmission systems before 2022.

“It’s extremely critical,” said Michelle Branigan, the CEO of the organization formed 15 years ago to address workforce concerns in the sector.

Almost 107,000 people are employed directly in the industry in Canada, from generation to power delivery. Currently the industry is not as diverse as Canada as whole, with women accounting for only one in four employees and visible minorities just over one in 10. It’s also older than average: Workers under age 25 account for fewer than one in 20 people.

The demand for new workers is complicated by the fact many of the jobs require substantial training.

“These people are not trained in like three months or six months and ready to hit the ground running,” said Branigan.

Most of the new workers will be needed to replace the aging workforce, but the industry is also expanding as demand for power grows thanks to battery-powered electronics, electric cars and digital systems.

The future workforce is also going to have to be more agile, able to work on renewable energy sources and digital technologies that are transforming the sector at a rate it has never before seen, said Branigan.

Failing to address this critical demand for workers runs the risk that Canada’s power systems will become less reliable, she said.

“If you don’t have the right people in the right place at the right time, with the right skills, that’s where we could run into difficulty,” she said.

The report notes a number of electricity-sector jobs demand similar skills as other industries — engineers, cybersecurity experts, information and communication technology specialists, to name a few — and electricity companies have to compete with flashier and more popular companies for the same workers.

Many young people know little about the provincial utilities that generate and transmit much of Canada’s electricity, Branigan said.

“But do you know Google, do you know Shopify, do you know these types of organizations? Yes, you do. Those resonate with young people. Where are they going to think about when they start thinking about an industry that is sexy and cool and is going to be exciting for them?”

Nirav Patel, the director of human resources at Ontario Power Generation, said promoting the skilled trades as options for young people, and marketing the industry to kids as young as elementary-school levels, could help attract them.

Patel also said while the industry is changing, there is one thing electricity can offer that some other industries cannot: security.

“The jobs are going to be around for a long time,” he said.

Branigan also warned employers not to focus on the big physical need to refurbish and modernize electricity grids, at the expense of the workforce that runs them.

“At the end of the day we need the people to keep the power on,” she said.

READ MORE: B.C. Hydro rates to rise another 8.1 per cent in next five years

READ MORE: BC Hydro scammers bilked customers out of nearly $45,000 in 2018

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Keep the ‘Wild’ in Wildlife: RDCO

RDCO reminds park-goers that bears are more prevalent in parks at this time of year

Simplifying business licences in Kelowna

Kelowna city councillors are looking at modernizing 20-year-old bylaw

On-foot brewery tours in Kelowna give ‘beer runs’ a new dimension

Brew Crew Kelowna celebrated its kick-off year in 2019

$11K Yeti bike stolen from Kelowna building

Two suspects broke into a building’s bike compound and left with some pricey new rides

Break in at Lake Country pot shop

Cash register and products stolen from Starbuds

Madchild brings demons of drug abuse to Okanagan

Swollen Members rapper takes Status stage

Car catches fire while being towed by motor home on Hwy. 97

The incident occured just north of Sage Mesa Rd., no injuries have been reported

B.C. Hydro applies for rare cut in electricity rates next year

Province wrote off $1.1 billion debt to help reverse rate increase

Repair work to begin on lakeshore paths in Summerland

Paths were damaged during spring flooding in 2017 and 2018

One sent to hospital following Balmoral Road/Highway 1 collision

Violation ticket issued in second crash at Balmoral intersection in two weeks

Chase RCMP request public’s help to find missing man

Travis Allen Sauls was last seen in Chase on July 14

Cause of North Okanagan house fire still under investigation

Mom rescued sleeping baby from Thursday’s blaze

Entrepreneur gives Okanagan’s homeless women a boost

The woman says she’ll continue to package and send out bags of products from her self-run business

Speculation tax forces sale of Greater Victoria’s iconic ‘Tulip House’

Bob and Jan Fleming selling their retirement home famous for its thousands of tulips

Most Read