Knowledge Matters » Introduction

Introduction

Background

The electricity sector is integral to the economic and social stability of Canada. While reliance on the more traditional hydroelectric power remains high (accounting for over 60% of Canada’s electricity supply), experts predict the use of solar, geothermal and tidal power, as well as wind and other renewable sources of electricity, will increase dramatically over the next 10 years.4

KM/KT Sector Example:
Using IT to Codify a Traditionally Paper-Based Approach


Mobile work crews at NB Power once had to complete their work orders by hand and input them into the system upon returning to the office. NB Power has invested in a workforce management system in Customer Service, Distribution and Transmission. The new online work order process is supported by ‘tough books’ that permit mobile work crews to access and input this information in the field. This wireless, online solution has reduced the paper burden, allowing for increased efficiency and productivity. This new system also allows for more effective tracking of the work orders and workload distribution.

The electricity sector has primarily relied on the same technology for the last 100 years, with the exception of more recently discovered ways of harnessing electricity such as nuclear, solar, etc. This has led to the requirement to have employees skilled in both legacy systems and technology as well as new innovations and technologies to support both traditional and growing renewable sub-sectors of power generation including wind and solar. At the same time, the focus in Canada is turning toward revitalizing the sector’s aging infrastructure including power generation and transmission networks and systems.

Emerging new technologies and aging of current technology and infrastructure are not the sector’s only concern. Recent studies conducted by the Electricity Sector Council (ESC) and augmented by several other labour market studies5, anticipate profound changes to the sector’s workforce over the next decade. The sector is experiencing substantial structural change in human resources (HR) and technology advances. An estimated 28.8%6 of the sector workforce is projected to retire in the next half decade. The majority of positions in the sector require some form of post-secondary education. The competencies and skills required in the sector are constantly being upgraded by new technology and management systems that are being introduced. Hiring for the future is not necessarily the same as hiring for today.

This has implications for both maintaining and sustaining a skilled workforce. For power producers, including both private and public, this means new skill sets and knowledge bases at all levels of the business to support research and innovation, changing operations (i.e. service delivery and distribution), and improvements to business processes, services, and products. Technology (automation and computerized systems) and the changing business environment are driving the need for new skill requirements among staff. However, within the energy sector, the "new" doesn't necessarily drive out the old. There will continue to be the need for staff that are experienced and knowledgeable with operating legacy systems. Hence, existing staff need development so that they are ready to fill vacancies in senior and critical specialist/technical positions that require significant experience in the field but also an ability to adapt to new business realities and requirements. New workers require orientation and training to bring them to a competent level of performance. Sector representatives generally note that new graduates require four years on-the-job experience to reach full competency.

Given the changing labour market realities including innovation and changing demographics, if actions are not taken today, then the sector will not be able to maintain its current competitive position. Meeting these unique needs will be a challenge, and despite these changes impacting the sector, EHRC estimated that one-third of the industry does not have workforce planning and knowledge transfer tools and processes in place.7 Without such tools, strategies and processes in place, corporate memory will be lost which has grave implications for competitive positioning, safety, productivity and business continuity, not to mention the need for understanding company-specific intellectual knowledge and know-how.

EHRC recognizes the need for organizations within the sector to more effectively harness and use its critical knowledge to improve operating efficiencies, identify future business opportunities and improve overall decision-making. EHRC, supported by a Sector-based Steering Committee, has developed this KM/KT Toolkit to provide support to organizations wishing to introduce and/or advance their approach to KM/KT. It is important that organizations in the electricity sector have access to tools and approaches and the experience of others that can be adapted to their unique organizational culture, workforce risks and business strategy. What follows is an overview of what KM and KT is in relation to this study; the business case for investing in KM/KT and critical support factors to sustain KM/KT. Throughout the report innovative approaches are presented to demonstrate how some organizations within the sector have been approaching KM/KT.


4 - Electricity Human Resources Canada http://electricityhr.ca/labour/en/additional.html.

5 - Conference Board of Canada; Ontario Chamber of Commerce to name two.

6 - Electricity Sector Council Powering Up the Future: 2008 Labour Market Information Study - Full Report

7 - Electricity Human Resources Canada Powering Up the Future: 2008 Labour Market Information Study - Full Report