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

Rock Creek family inspiration for new boxing event

Rock Creek will host some of the best provincial boxers at Rumble in Rock Creek

Fruitvale man identified in fatal zipline accident in Thailand

Spencer Donaldson, 25, was from Fruitvale, B.C., the city’s mayor has confirmed

Fruitvale man, 25, dies after falling from zipline in Thailand, reports say

Bangkok Post says man fell from Flight of the Gibbon zipline in Chiang Mai

VIDEO: Driver in bizarre hit-and-run at B.C. car dealership turns herself in

Police believe alcohol was a factor in incident causing estimated $15,000 in damages

B.C., Ottawa talk 50/50 split on abandoned bus-route service

B.C. has paid $2 million on a bus service for the northern part of the province

‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current approach in ‘war on drugs’ has criminalized and stigmatized drug users

B.C. woman, 76, challenges alcohol-screening laws after failing to give breath sample

Norma McLeod was unable to provide a sample because of her medical conditions

New report on 2017 wildfires calls for better coordination with B.C. First Nations

Tsilhqot’in National Government documents 2017 disaster and lists 33 calls to action

B.C. youth coach banned amid sexual harassment, bullying scandal: Water Polo Canada

Justin Mitchell can’t take part in Water Polo Canada events or clubs

Wilson-Raybould: Feds want to just ‘manage the problem’ of Indigenous Peoples

Former federal justice minister speaks at First Nations Justice Council meeting in B.C.

Boating incident claims life on East Kootenay lake

A young man has died after a canoe overturned in Moyie Lake early Tuesday morning

Female real estate agents warned of suspicious man in Metro Vancouver

The man requests to see homes alone with the female agent, police say

Most Read