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Powering the Energy and Utility Workforce of 2023

The energy and utility industries power our everyday lives and play a major role in the global economy.

According to the International Trade Association, the energy industry is made up of companies that produce oil, natural gas, coal, renewable fuels, and electricity from clean energy sources such as wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal, and nuclear power.

Working hand in hand with the energy industry are utilities, which distribute and deliver the energy to our businesses, homes, schools, hospitals, and more.

Given the expansive footprint and impact of the energy and utility industries, it’s no surprise they employ a significant portion of the U.S. workforce. And as the energy landscape evolves, that number is expected to continue to grow.

Job Growth

The energy sector employed more than 7.8 million Americans in 2021, per the U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER). Between 2020 and 2021, total energy employment grew by 4 percent, outpacing the 2.8 percent growth of the U.S. workforce overall.

The report found that carbon-reducing vehicles, renewables, and energy efficiency accounted for the greatest job growth in many states, including Texas, California, Florida, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

Conversely, employment in the fuels technology sector, which includes gas, coal, and petroleum, fell by about 3.1 percent during this time period. The coal industry experienced the biggest percentage loss, with employment falling by 11.8 percent.

Workforce Demographics and Diversity

Gender: Data from the U.S. Energy and Employment Report shows that the energy workforce is predominantly male (74 percent), with women holding just 25 percent of positions industrywide. This is well below the national workforce average of 47 percent.

Age: In terms of age, the energy workforce tends to be younger. In 2021, only 17 percent of the energy workforce was above age 55—lower than the national average of 24 percent—with 9.7 percent of energy sector workers forecasted to retire in the next five years. And making matters more complicated, millennial and Gen Z workers who have begun to replace baby boomers are leaving their jobs much more quickly than their predecessors.

What Executives Want

Today’s energy and utility leaders understand the importance of their workforce in driving the industry forward but recognize the obstacles they face when it comes to hiring, retention, and upskilling existing employees.

A 2021 survey of power and utilities executives found:

  • 94 percent said they need to invest in both technology and the workforce to succeed. New technologies and innovations have the potential to transform the way we generate, distribute, and utilize energy, but finding workers to support this type of transformation is proving to be a challenge.
  • 89 percent said having too few workers with the right skills is a barrier to adopting new digital technologies.
  • 85 percent agreed that the ability to train and develop current industry workers quickly is crucial to addressing this gap.
  • Just 57 percent said their organization has a robust plan to reskill over the next three years.

Looking Ahead

With so much potential for exciting, industrywide innovations that will empower us all to become more responsible stewards of how we produce and use energy, the industry must focus on cultivating and sustaining a qualified workforce.

In its 2021 Gaps in the Workforce Report, the Center for Energy Workforce Development (CEWD) noted that over the next five years:

  • The industry will need to replace an estimated 44,000 line workers, technicians, plant/field operators, renewable technicians, and engineers.
  • An additional 94,000 corporate and other field positions—human resources, information technology, customer service, management, physical and cyber security, among others—will also need to be filled.

To meet these demands, the CEWD has recommended a multifaceted approach that includes:

  • Expanding career awareness initiatives to students and those already in the workforce who may be looking for other opportunities
  • Developing training programs for roles in the rapidly growing renewables sector
  • Establishing quick paths for career growth to reduce employee turnover
  • Investing in initiatives to make the energy workforce more diverse, equitable, and inclusive

Implementing these strategies now will help to support the trajectory of the energy and utility industries—along with the well-being of our communities and economy—for decades to come.

Broadleaf Results offers a comprehensive suite of workforce solutions to organizations in the energy and utility industries. Contact us today to learn more about how we can work together to streamline your talent acquisition and workforce management needs.