Building an energy workforce for tomorrow

A skilled workforce is critical to any industry’s success. This is especially true in the electric power industry, where each day, the dedicated men and women of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and other labor organizations partner with electric power companies to deliver the safe, reliable, affordable, and clean energy that powers our lives and runs our nation’s economy. As business and labor leaders, we recognize the importance of creating a work environment that supports the adaptability and creativity of all employees. And, we are working together to ensure that we have the culture in place to support engaged employees today and create expanded opportunities for the workplace of tomorrow.

The power of the labor and management partnership cannot be overlooked. This is why labor leaders and company executives will convene today to focus on advancing the common goals of the electric power industry and the labor community. Now in its ninth year, the annual meeting of the national labor and management public affairs committee (National LAMPAC) gives us an opportunity to come together to tackle our nation’s energy challenges. 

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The electric power industry always has been a key driver of jobs in America. In fact, the industry directly employs nearly 500,000 workers across the country. The industry also spent more than $100 billion last year to build smarter energy infrastructure and transition to even cleaner generation sources. These investments create new jobs and make the power grid more dynamic and more secure for all customers. 

The men and women of the IBEW are integral to our industry’s success. This is why the leaders of America’s electric power industry are working hand in hand with the IBEW to harness all the ideas and talents that will make our industry better. Together, we’re expanding our focus on safety, job quality and productivity and developing programs to better support a more flexible, more creative and more engaged workforce.

Electric power companies will have to replace nearly half of our workforce within the next 10 years as many of our skilled and technical employees, such as plant operators and line mechanics, are approaching retirement. This means a significant number of vacancies will be created, and talented, highly skilled individuals will be needed to fill these roles. Competing with other industries for the skilled, creative workforce that is critical for success will be a challenge. But it also provides opportunity to ensure that we have an industry culture that attracts and supports adaptable employees who are ready to embrace the challenges of rapidly changing technologies and meet the expanding expectations of our customers.

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers President Emeritus Ed Hill and Edison Electric Institute President Tom Kuhn have been instrumental in fostering National LAMPAC. They will receive the 2016 John D. Dingell Award tonight for their excellence in promoting labor-management cooperation. Their tireless efforts to further the shared goals of industry and labor and ensure that today’s workers are prepared for the future embody the spirit of National LAMPAC.

As we look ahead to our rapidly changing future, one thing is clear: the talent of skilled employees will be critical for ongoing success. For nearly a decade, the National LAMPAC partnership has helped ensure that the goals of labor and industry leaders are aligned and focused on how to best serve our customers in a future with ever-changing technology and expectations.

By continuing to strengthen and grow this partnership, we will create even more opportunities for our industry and our employees. Working together, we can create a powerful energy future for all Americans. 

Akins is chairman, president and chief executive officer of American Electric Power and chairman of the Edison Electric Institute, which represents all U.S. investor-owned electric companies. Stephenson is international president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), which represents approximately 750,000 active members and retirees who work in a wide variety of fields.

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