A shortage of skills in the labor force, projected turnover and historical difficulty attracting talent for engineering and skilled trades positions were just a couple of the unique challenges faced by Member Colorado Springs Utilities. This led the organization to embark on an aggressive workforce planning initiative in order to:

  • Assess the existing labor force and identify critical positions necessary to maintaining safe and reliable services to their community.
  • Identify positions most at risk to losing talent through attrition and retirements.
  • Develop strategic workforce strategies to alleviate projected talent shortage risks.

Colorado Springs Utilities’ HR employees led the creation of the Colorado Energy Consortium with the mission of, “Combining the power of the energy utilities, government and educational system to develop and enhance the Colorado Energy Workforce.”

The Colorado Energy Consortium seeks to establish a shared state identity and vision as it develops a strategic plan working with higher education and other key partners to leverage synergies. Through these collective efforts, the Colorado Energy Consortium’s goal is the sustained effort of all the partners, leveraging resources and innovation, to address our future workforce needs.

Additionally, Colorado Springs Utilities’ HR employees conducted a detailed study of projected talent shortages for engineering positions and created a plan to develop recent engineering program graduates through focused professional development rotational programs and provide practical work experiences preparing them for promotional opportunities with higher level work and responsibility.

Colorado Springs Utilities’ HR employees have also been actively involved in working with local school systems and educators providing industry advice on necessary skills needed by the future labor force to address projected talent shortages, as well as highlight the breadth of career opportunities available in the energy and utilities sector within our local community.

This work has included assisting with Colorado Construction Career Days presenting career information to hundreds of local high school students annually since 2009. In 2011, 575 students were provided a chance to explore firsthand the career possibilities of the construction industry. In 2012 and 2013, over 600 students registered for this event!

As part of this local community involvement, Colorado Springs Utilities’ HR employees also participate on the Alternative Cooperative Education (ACE) Advisory Board. This board consists of community members, teachers and parents representing a cross section of different occupational areas. The primary purpose of the local program advisory committee is to assist educators in establishing, operating and evaluating programs which serve the needs of students, business and industry, and to provide their expertise in helping to improve programs in the school.

The Colorado Energy Consortium members along with the Colorado Community College system developed targeted programs to better suit the future labor needs of the energy utilities industry culminating in proposed Colorado Community College System curricula. This was presented to various utility companies and community college representatives in February 2013. The created program is for an Energy Technician Specialist AAS degree with emphasis options in Solar, Wind, Power Plant Operations, Field Operations, Gas Distribution, or a Utility Crew Lead.

The ability to assess quality of hire and improvement in workforce readiness of future applicant pools will be 3-5 years out. However, one result of this initiative has been an increased collaboration with the educational institutions within the state of Colorado.

One result this collaboration may be the receipt of a $17 million grant being awarded by the Department of Labor. Through this grant, the Colorado Online Energy Training Consortium will offer a wide selection of energy-related degree and certificate programs tailored to industry specifications and job demands. Fifteen community colleges will redesign developmental education to support the targeted energy programs, and seven program colleges will provide online and hybrid energy programs to connect workers with family-sustaining wages and career advancement.

Are you a Member of DirectEmployers with a successful initiative to share? Enter the DirectEmployers Member Awards Competition! The deadline for submissions is November 7, 2014. Learn more and submit today at http://app.ly/memberawards.

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