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

Castlegar teens rescue man from river

Will Watt and Shay LaFayette helped save a fisherman from the Kootenay River.

Carfentanil found for first time in Castlegar

Killer opiod found in local illegal drug market

Rossland’s Seven Summits school gets grant to grow global presence

Centre for Learning hopes to triple the number of international students it has

Rural dividend grants awarded in Kootenay West

Kootenay West MLA Katrine Conroy made the grant announcements in Trail on Thursday

Rossland skiier places third at U19 Canadian Ski Cross

Rossland’s Sage Stefani finished out a successful season.

What’s age got to do with it? B.C. couple with 45-year gap talks happy marriage

An Armstrong couple that has 45-year age gap began turning heads after being featured on show Extreme Love.

Vintage bottles, magic cards, a 1969 Playboy: Quirky items found in historic B.C. buildings

Crews set aside some of the funkier pieces emerging from the construction rubble

PHOTOS: Inside the ‘shoe house’ in Northern B.C.

A rare look inside the famous Kitseguecla Lake Road shoe house, with a tour led by owner Toby Walsh

Thieves steal five of Seven Dwarves ornaments honouring B.C. couple’s late son

For the second time in a year, several garden ornaments stolen from Cloverdale family’s front garden

Child, 11, accidentally shot in the chest at Alberta religious colony

Child taken from Hutterite colony to nearby hospital

Ceremonies, vigils planned in Toronto to honour victims of deadly van attack

Many of those who helped that day — first responders and Good Samaritans alike — still affected

Easter bombings a response to New Zealand attacks, says Sri Lanka minister

The Islamic State group asserted it was responsible for the nine bombings

Update: Court proceeding for man charged in fatal church shooting adjourned unil May

Matrix Savage Gathergood charged with first degree murder, aggravated assault

RCMP looking to retrace steps of woman found dead on Kelowna beach

Caitlin Midori Bradley, a 29-year-old dancer at a Kelowna bar, was originally from Surrey

Most Read