Start looking at your workforce. Do I have anyone that has enough training or shows the drive to move forward with their career? It can be hard to forecast a retirement. Some workers just get tired of the day to day activities and call it quits. An injury or family illness forces them to change plans. Others may give subtle hints that may be ignored or forgotten. Preparing an employee to start a new position or a move up the ladder takes a lot of time and effort by everyone in the workplace. One or two years at a utility might not be enough experience to be fully competent. Who will train the new person?
Some of the answers to these hard questions might not be very difficult to answer. Utilities should be willing to offer training to insure that their employees are competent and safe. Offering training can send a message to the employee that you as the employer care about their well-being and that you are willing to invest in them. Try to get the ball rolling with a new hire as soon as possible. An apprenticeship might be the answer for new linemen with little experience. This gives them a chance to build on the knowledge that they may have obtained in a power line program or on the job experience. During this time, the utility overseeing the program can monitor the apprentice’s progression. If you are fortunate enough to have experienced workers, don’t assume that they will or want to step up into the next position. Let employees shadow and gain some insight of what the next level job will consist of on a daily basis.
Utilities, boards, and councils put together plans for projects and expenditures that may look into the future five or ten years down the road. Why not look at your workforce in the same way? You may not have a date on the calendar marked for the next retirement, but you may be better prepared when it happens. Pay scales at municipal utilities may be lower due to budgetary restraints, so the advantage goes to the bigger players in the hiring pool. The advantages that may be forgotten about are that your utility can provide an employee with less travel, a chance to connect with a community or in some cases, their home town, a smaller system to maintain and operate and a job with good pay and benefits. Look at the age of your workforce. Work with schools to focus on the value of this trade and its benefits. Many young people feel the pressure from others to go to college and be the next CEO. They might not realize that if they complete a power line program at a nearby college and want to work outdoors, it can be a really great career. It has been forecasted that between the years of 2011-2016, over 45,000 new workers will have to be recruited to fill in all of the openings in the electric utility sector. Someone has to keep the lights on. Be the person waiting at the train station to usher off your new employee before your next employee boards the retirement train.