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The Talent Bubble

As Baby Boomers near retirement age, utilities face the challenge of preparing the next generation of leaders.
Fortnightly Magazine - February 2004

more actively involved with colleges and universities, developing curricula, and participating in career fairs. Additionally, many utilities have established special programs and Internet resources to attract and guide students. 3

"Other industries are more vocal and visible in explaining where they are headed," says Griffin of the Midwest ISO. Students have traditionally perceived the energy and utility industry as being conservative and static, which has made other industries seem more attractive by comparison, according to Johnson. Many graduates have pursued other fields that are perceived as more dynamic and high-tech, such as telecommunications and networking.

"We as an industry need to change how we are perceived," he says. "A lot of new infrastructure needs to be put into place, and that can attract many types of people."

Indeed, the Midwest ISO plans to increase its staff by one third in 2004, adding 120 positions-mostly in control-room, technical development and delivery, system monitoring, and security positions.

"We've got a reliability mandate that will take a lot of staff to implement," Griffin says. "On a technical level, we are doing things that very few people have been involved with. It's a great time for new personnel to come into this business."

Indeed, the industry as a whole is beginning a transition into a new era. The value of experience, skills, and knowledge during this transition is difficult to overstate, and thus the risks of failure are high.

"In the past, we just promoted people and said, 'Go forth and supervise,'" Haake says. "These kinds of programs do a whole lot better job of [making] successful leaders, and preserving those things that have enabled us to be successful. You can't do that badly or you will pay a price."


  1. The Aging and Retiring Work Force: New Challenges for Public Power, American Public Power Association, Washington, D.C.:
  2. Heydt, G.T., and Vittal, V. "Feeding Our Profession," IEEE Power & Energy, Vol. I, No. 1, Jan.-Feb. 2003.
  3. See Imperial Irrigation District's student-intern brochure; AEP's college-recruiting Web resource; and Entergy's college career opportunities Web site

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