Electricity delivery is a complex system that starts with power generation, progresses through transmission structures and then distribution lines before delivering power to homes and businesses. The system relies on much more than the physical structures; each stage requires personnel trained in a wide assortment of skills. Besides the more visible Powerline Technicians, Electricians and Office Administration, the industry requires Power Systems Operators, Engineers, Cybersecurity Experts, Information and Communication Technology specialists and more.
A recent study by Electricity Human Resources Canada (EHRC) found that 20,500 new employees will be needed in the electricity sector by 2022, equivalent to 20% of the current labour force. Most of the new hires will replace retiring employees while others will be needed to meet increased electricity demand. Continued growth is expected in the sector even as energy efficiency improves, due to increasing industrial use, expanding population and new electrical usage for technology and electric vehicles.
In addition to work-specific skills, new employees will need willingness to learn on the job, proficiency in communication, and the ability to work as part of a team. As the electricity industry adds an increasing proportion of renewables and micro-generation to the grid, adaptability will be valued in all parts of the industry.
Battle River Power Coop, operating as an electricity distribution cooperative in Alberta, has a role in the continuing preparation of the utility labour force. Our Vegetation Manager has worked with the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in developing an online course leading to a Utility Vegetation Management Certificate of Achievement. Many of the Powerline Technicians (PLTs) employed at Battle River begin as 1st year apprentices and progress through the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) apprenticeship program to full Journeyperson status. Ongoing training keeps PLTs up to date in the use of appropriate equipment, techniques and technology.
As the electricity sector changes and evolves, a common thread throughout the industry is an acknowledgement of the importance of continuing safety for the public and utility workers. Battle River Power Coop plays an active educational role in safety by featuring member safety in our various communications and through regular, relevant training for staff. It is notable that the current chair of the Alberta Electric Utility Safety Association (AEUSA) is a Battle River Power Coop employee.
Tradition and innovation exist side by side at Battle River Power Coop. We continue to distribute safe, reliable, cost-effective electricity to our members while recognizing the importance of continuing education and adapting to the ever-changing world of electricity distribution in rural Alberta.