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

Graffiti Days 2019 a huge success

Hundreds of cars and spectators — including a History channel TV personality — turned out for the event

Bus company fears for future if another licence issued for Interior routes

Adventure Charters waiting to see if Ebus BC is approved for Prince George-Kamloops run

Sea Cadets wind up another year with Ceremonial Review

Corps is fundraising for a trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia in 2020

WorkBC helping break down barriers to employment

Office offers a wide range of services to help people find sustainable careers

Local News Briefs: Get garden ideas with Ashcroft tour

The Rivertown Players are back, invasive plant management, reduced tipping fees, and more

VIDEO: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ to be re-released with new footage

‘Avatar’ holds global box office record at $2.788 billion, while ‘Endgame’ stands at $2.743 billion…

B.C. teen killed by falling tree near Victoria

Second youth also injured in freak incident during field trip at Camp Barnard near Sooke

Elias Pettersson wins Calder Trophy as NHL’s top rookie

Vancouver forward first Canuck to win award since Pavel Bure in 1992

FVRD chair calls B.C. incineration plan for Philippines waste ‘disturbing’

Metro Vancouver ‘uniquely capable’ of safely disposing of waste coming back to Canada, say officials

VIDEO: Acknowledging skeptics, finance minister vows to build Trans Mountain project

Bill Morneau said he recognizes ‘huge amount of anxiety’ in Calgary over future of oil and gas sector

Shovels could be in the ground on Trans Mountain by September, CEO says

Ian Anderson points to weeks likely required for NEB to reinstate 2016 regulatory record

Scorpion gives birth after hitching ride in B.C. woman’s luggage

A Vancouver woman inadvertently brought the animal home from a trip to Cuba

RCMP allows officers to grow beards

Members can now wear beards and goatees, as long as they’re neatly groomed

Girl, 10, poisoned by carbon monoxide at B.C. campsite could soon return home

Lucille Beaurain died and daughter Micaela Walton, 10, was rushed to B.C. Children’s Hospital on May 18

Most Read