IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - May/June 2018 - 67
The workforce crisis is noThing new To The U.s. power indUsTry. iT has been
a growing concern of both governments and industry organizations since the early 2000s. Meanwhile,
the growth of data during the past decade has led to a demand surge for data analytics across all business
sectors. The shortage of an electricity workforce and the increasing demand for data analytics present an
emerging challenge as well as opportunity for university power engineering programs to bridge the data
analytics talent gap. after gathering various perspectives from members of academia, industry, and government, we propose an interdisciplinary and entrepreneurial approach to revising the traditional power
engineering curriculum for training the next generation of energy data scientists.
A Bit of History: Battling the Electricity Workforce Crisis
at the beginning of the 21st century, 78 million individuals born between 1946 and 1964 started to reach
retirement eligibility. These baby boomers represented 44% of the U.s. workforce. while their retirements
present a challenge to virtually all business sectors, the impact on the power industry is particularly strong.
figure 1 lists several notable publications related to the power and energy education.
The IEEE Spectrum article, "power engineering education at the crossroads," presented interviews
with many experts such as engineering managers, academic professors, and recruiters. Most of them considered "the impending shortage of trained personnel" in the power industry "has been in the making for
decades." ieee-Usa surveys at that time also demonstrated that "salaries for engineers working in power
and energy have lagged badly behind salaries in most other fields of electrical and electronics engineering,
and that the lags have become worse the further along the engineers are in their careers."
The IEEE Power & Energy Magazine article, "feeding our profession," listed some disheartening statistics. The percentage of undergraduate electrical engineering students committed to electric power in the
United states had steadily declined from 15 to 10% in the 1970s down to 5-7% in the early 2000s. although
the numbers in graduate programs were fairly stable, largely due to the enrollments from international students, the total enrollments in power engineering programs were certainly on a declining trend. Moreover,
university hiring in the power engineering area was weak in the 1980s and 1990s, resulting in the median age
of power engineering educators moving toward the older end of the spectrum.
in 2004, IEEE Transactions on Power Systems published a special section on power engineering education to stimulate additional interest in power engineering, document new ideas and activities, and encourage
additional communication between industry and academia. The focus was primarily on "formal
university programs that provide new engineers for the industry and academe."
in 2006, the U.s. department of energy released a report to the U.s. congress
on the workforce trend in the electric utility industry, with a focus on two professions: electrical line-workers and electric power engineers. The former largely
relies on mentoring and on-the-job training, while the latter is heavily dependent
on university programs. regarding the power engineer workforce, the report
highlighted several issues, such as declining interest from students, shrinking university programs, and low pay compared to other electrical engineering concentrations. The report also called for public-private partnerships to
address the concern of declining support for power systems research.
By Tao Hong, David Wenzhong Gao,
Tom Laing, Dale Kruchten,
and Jorge Calzada
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/MPE.2018.2798759
Date of publication: 18 April 2018
ieee power & energy magazine