#PoweringTomorrow: Shaping the Future of Our Most Important Resource – Our People
Electricity Human Resources Canada hosted its annual Awards of Excellence Feb. 21, 2019 and began with the Powering Tomorrow panel which discussed the importance of shaping the future of our most important resource: our people. To set the tone, there are big changes afoot in the electricity sector, not just in Canada but world-wide. Marrying new technology to legacy systems, integration of smart grids, plugging in electric vehicles and managing energy storage and the distributed nature of power generation. All of this has an impact on the future of work and the occupations of today and tomorrow. In all of this, where do youth fit in? Chronically under-employed for decades (hovering around 11% at last check), what can we do?
We began by discussing the definition of ‘youth.’ Historically, Statistics Canada has grouped youth from 15 to 25. By this definition, the electricity industry is made up of only 5% youth versus 14% in all industries in Canada – this is in contrast to 19% of employees over the age of 55. Many government programs interpret youth as 30 and under. The panel was in general agreement however, that given the nature of society today, the term ‘youth’ could and should be determined as under 35 (and everyone else that feels young!).
On the recruitment side, several panelists discussed the importance of building the pipeline of talent back further to include high school and elementary school and creating lasting partnerships between industry and learning institutions. Applied research could be used as a tool to build industry/academic partnerships and create real world problems for students to solve.
For retention, mentorship was raised and the importance of creating opportunities for informal mentorship connections from the beginning of the career journey. It was observed too that this is also a valuable retention tool. The greatest challenge students face when integrating was deemed corporate cultures that may run contrary to youth expectations and specifically may not be as inclusive as they could be. Furthermore, there should be opportunities built for skills development and cross-training within the first few years of a new entrant’s career. Specific tactics like “skype-ins” and “lean-in’s were named to engage students with employers directly and to engage women more pro-actively. Unconscious bias was named as something employers really need to focus on and address.
One of the final points discussed was the internationalization of education in Canada. As Canada’s birthrate falls, and more immigration is occurring (and required to replace workers in current jobs), the number of students attending post-secondary from other countries has correspondingly risen. This does pose a challenge for integration, and post-secondary institutions have been increasing the programs geared at supporting international students (i.e. language and cultural training programs). However there are sometimes challenges for international students in being placed in full-time co-operative education and internship placements as a result of Canadian visa restrictions. From a retention perspective, it does make sense to look at the policies associated with integrating international students into the broader education and work experience for the longer term from a talent retention perspective.
Stability is Key
Overall – the discussion determined that students and new graduates are much like the rest of us – they want a home. Innovation isn’t everything. While there is a great deal of innovation going on in the electricity sector, there is one thing for certain: electricity is a foundational element to the economy and there will be jobs here for the foreseeable future. Those jobs are changing, certainly. But many of our companies can provide the stable home that youth are looking for.
As futurist Alvin Toffler once said:
“The secret message communicated to most young people today by the society around them is that they are not needed, that the society will run itself quite nicely until they – at some distant point in the future – will take over the reigns. Yet the fact is that the society is not running itself nicely… because the rest of us need all the energy, brains, imagination and talent that young people can bring to bear down on our difficulties. For society to attempt to solve its desperate problems without the full participation of even very young people is imbecile.”
Meet The Panel
Moderated by Mark Chapeskie, Director of Programs for EHRC, the panelists included:
- Aisling O’Doherty, Policy Analyst – Safety, Risk, Policy & Innovation, Electrical Safety Authority
- Bill Angelakos, Dean, Technology and Visual Arts (TVA), Georgian College
- Nicole Miller, Assistant Director, Learning and Professional Development, University of Ottawa
- Nicole Parsons, Senior Manager, HR Corporate Services, Nalcor Energy
- Robyn Simpson, Talent Acquisition Associate, FortisBC
#PoweringTomorrow is a campaign to attract the best and brightest minds to Canada’s electricity sector. Begun under the Empowering Futures program with support from the Government of Canada’s Student Work Placement Program, EHRC is partnering with industry and academia to ensure more students participate in co-ops, internships and other work integrated learning opportunities nation-wide to better prepare them for the world of work.