As a journalist, I always strived to humble enough to admit that a great reporter is only as good as his or her sources. I wasn’t an expert on anything, but I could find one. That was my job.
I am always interested in how people got into different walks of life, particularly their life’s work. Electric Light & Power Executive Digest (EL&P) is one of our sister publications, an all-digital issue that comes out twice a month. One of my favorite features in the EL&P is “How did you get Your Start in the Grid?” We ask grid pros, whether from ComEd or Itron or G&W Electric or whatever company, to give us their life story and aspirations in 10 questions or less.
The answers, despite the required brevity, are often fascinating. I wondered if they walked around a job site and quoted old Talking Heads line, “How did I get here?” I’ve done that. Sometimes one of our EL&P subjects outwardly marveled at their life’s course, but usually they kind of knew where they were headed even as youngsters. Many found a love for math and science early and nurtured it, or were nurtured by smart parents or other role models.
Here at POWERGRID International, I talk to many experts on a monthly basis. I am amazed at just what is going on out there in the electric T&D and smart grid sectors. If at first I had thought it was just rotating magnets and rushing that power down a wire, mister, I have since been enlightened. The advancements in control and sensoring technologies alone are changing our world, whether it’s how we drive to work or make energy more efficient.
While we still have plenty of intensely curious and inventive people working on these things, the grid itself is suffering from an extreme workforce shortage. A recent global survey by AirSwift and Energy Jobline, citing 16,000 respondents, found that 83 percent of power sector hiring managers believe there is a dearth of skilled talent for the jobs needed. Seventy-two percent of them say that more training and development are needed for those coming into the workforce.
I’m amazed at how much this sector has changed in the last generation, but less so than the revolution coming in the decades ahead. Just read this magazine issue: Our future grid workforce probably will need to master blockchain (page 11 ). Front-line employees will be challenged with delivering distribution-level resiliency with the help of microgrids (pages 14 and 22). Ultimately, though, many will be doing incredible work as highlighted by our four worthy Projects of the Year Award winners (page 26).
Fifteen or so years from now, maybe I’ll still be asking grid professionals what it is they love about the job. Maybe it will be refereeing the multi-way flow of renewable and fossil-fired generation, or something even more gee-whiz gizmo like regulating the frequency on the fast-charge flux capacitor. I’m just spit-balling here.
In any event, it will still be all about people having a passion for the work they do. Let’s just hope there are more of them doing it.