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Energy Industry Faced with a Possible Workforce Shortage

energy jobsThe energy industry may be booming, but the amount of skilled workers seems to be dwindling.  The industry is looking at a possible shortage of employees within the next decade, a huge inconvenience with many major projects soon to be underway.

Daniel Lumma, senior vice president of Kiewit Oil, Gas, and Chemical North America, confirmed that the North American oil and gas industry is made up of roughly five million skilled trade workers, which is about one million fewer than it was during the mid 2000s.  Lumma also described his concern that about half of these workers will likely retire within the next 10 years, leaving millions of gaps to fill.

With the current oil and gas boom happening in the United States, a great number of projects are in progress and many will be starting shortly.  “If all those projects happen, the peak workforce would have to multiply five to six times about what it is right now.  The fact is, that’s not going to happen,” stated Lumma.  He continued, “We’re heading into a very, very significant demographic issue.”

There is a solution to every problem, and in this case, there may be a few options.  Planning is crucial.  Making sure each project has enough workers to be efficient will be beneficial if done in advance.  Joining forces with local union halls could also act as a solution to the worker shortage.  Unions can assist with recruiting and employee training for any major project.  Lumma recommends employers set up extensive training in non-union areas, and consider expanding recruiting initiatives to veterans.

Large-scale projects will require the work of thousands of employees, and the Keystone XL pipeline is a great example.  TransCanada states,

Construction of the 1,179-mile pipeline will require 9,000 skilled American workers.  The project will provide jobs for welders, mechanics, electricians, pipefitters, laborers, safety coordinators, heavy equipment operators and other workers who rely on large construction projects for their livelihoods.  In addition to construction jobs, an estimated 7,000 U.S. jobs are being supported in manufacturing the steel pipe and the thousands of fittings, valves, pumps and control devices required for a major oil pipeline.

Oil and gas projects are not the only ones that require skilled workers.  The Obama administration recently approved three large renewable energy projects in the U.S.  These projects include NextEra Energy’s 750-megawatt McCoy Solar Energy Project in southern California, EDF Renewable Energy’s 150-megawatt Desert Harvest Solar Farm also in California, and the 200-megawatt Searchlight Wind Energy Project in Nevada.  Each of these developments will need to employ thousands of workers.

With so many large energy projects in the works for the U.S., companies will certainly be conducting extensive recruiting, hiring, and training for potential employees.  The need for skilled workers continues to grow, and with these projects, companies can only hope they don’t run out of talent.

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