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Building a Learning Culture Can Regenerate the Power Delivery Sector

Sept. 8, 2022
Progressive technology in the power and electricity sector presents monumental challenges in workforce development.

Several years ago, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), a nuclear energy policy advocate, stated that 39% of energy workers — those skilled in traditional methods — have reached retirement age. NEI estimated that 20,000 recruits would be needed to replace them within four years, and this was before the global pandemic prompted a further Great Resignation.

Confirming NEI's claim, the  UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy reported in 2020 that employment in the sector has increased by 66% over 15 years. Indeed, the industry has faced more growth than they have seen in decades, so how well equipped to manage progressive technology is this rapidly growing sector?

Why is a Learning Culture Important?

Numerous studies have investigated the correlation between learning and employee satisfaction. Most — if not all — conclude that high-quality training attracts and retains the best workers, but this is not the only aim of workplace learning. Many workers are already using new technology for the first time; and, if they are not now, they will do so in the future. For some people, technology has transformed their roles entirely.

This is a considerable challenge for a traditional industry that has remained unchanged for decades. To begin, closing the gaping skills gaps requires training, particularly  sustainability training. It's not only the newest or youngest workers who need more training: automation will affect over half of customer service and 38% of the distribution and dispatch roles in the power and energy sector within the next 15 years. Therefore, all energy sector workers should increase their digital skills and knowledge, and their managers should provide quality learning opportunities. 

While transformation is a big undertaking, it is necessary.  Therefore, the power system must embrace prevailing and emerging technology to survive, evolve and thrive. 

How does the industry use advanced technology?

In an L&D benchmarking survey by our company we found that 75% of companies plan to incorporate more technology-based learning in 2022, but what does this mean for the power sector?

Technology is changing the industry, from AI-programmed solar farms to improving gas and coal-powered plant efficiency with advanced analytics. By helping operators monitor and identify causes of variability, technology-enabled operations can improve heat rate efficiency by up to 3% and reduce coal generation costs by up to 20% and gas by up to 15%. Moreover, technology can track workflow to enable better maintenance of expensive equipment and reduce premature replacement costs, so it is cost-efficient too.

For ground workers, technology makes difficult jobs much safer. Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR) training enables workers to prepare for dangerous scenarios, thus reducing the risk of injuries in real-time situations. HR teams can also assess recruits' ability to perform roles virtually as part of their onboarding and training.

However, while it is apparent that technology will transform the sector, are companies ready for the challenge PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP says that the energy, utilities and resources industry is at a pivotal moment. Many roles require AI, robotics and machine learning, but there are widespread concerns about workers' lacking digital skills and competency. To support them, 70% of leaders plan to upskill workers and prioritize digital recruitment and retention. Of course, leaders need guidance too, and good leadership training can enable teams to manage new challenges effectively.

In the future, the transmission and distribution of power will increasingly rely on technology: digital twins, AR/VR, Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, and emerging technology will play an essential role in the sector. Building a learning culture and new training technology are core factors for the industry to transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy sources.

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