Sunday, January 18, 2009

The IBEW and the Electricity Sector Council

Last week I was asked by the IBEW International Office to participate in an Electricity Sector Council ( ) regional consultation focused on best practices to recruit new employees into the electricity industry.

The Electricity Sector Council (ESC), an independent not-for-profit organization supported by the Government of Canada with support from industry stakeholders, was created in 2005 in response to rising concern about the sustainability of a strong and skilled electricity and renewable energies workforce in Canada. The Council develops sector based initiatives which strengthen the ability of stakeholders in the Canadian electricity industry to meet current and future needs for a skilled, safety focused, and internationally competitive workforce.

As a major stakeholder in the electricity sector, the IBEW is a major participant in many of the ESC activities.

In the past I have also participated as a member of the ESC “Succession Planning” committee, which provided input on the development of tools that can be used to identify and prepare workers to move into positions in our industry that require a level of previous “hands on” experience and/or new skills in order to be successful.

There is a growing understanding that our industry will be crippled if we don’t recruit new workers or have people ready to move into senior and specialized roles as older workers retire. Many times in the past, succession planning and strategic recruitment activities have only been considered necessary for management and senior leadership positions, but everyone in our industry is starting to recognize that it is just as important to start planning for jobs that require a great deal of specialized experience, like power plant operators, lineworkers and maintenance technicians and tradesworkers to name just a few.

This consultation session was held in Halifax and was attended by representatives from some of the utilities in Atlantic Canada as well as representatives from the provincial governments and training institutions. New Brunswick was well represented, and in addition to myself, the consultation was also attended by Suzanne Desrosiers, the Chief Human Resources Officer for NB Power Transmission, Distribution & Customer Service, Shelley Rinehart from the New Brunswick Department of Energy and Ken Jordan from the NB Apprenticeship Branch of Post-secondary Education and Labour. By the way, Suzanne also chairs the ESC “PLT” committee ( which is looking at the specific issues required to deal with a growing shortage of lineworkers in Canada and North America.

I thought the all-day session was productive – the topics covered were designed to draw out the experiences and best practices that we are going to need to insure the future of our industry. Although it can be hard for me to give a up the better part of two days in order participate in something like this, I was glad to be there since I was the only union representative at this particular session, and it is important that someone is there from the IBEW so we can influence industry and government policy decisions as they are being developed.

(Pictured, top to bottom, left to right: Ross Galbraith, NB Depatrment of Apprenticeship and Certification's Rejean Gagne and Ken Jordan, NS Deptartment of Labour's Dianne Gordon, ESC CEO Katherine Cottingham, ESC staff member Kevin Joseph, NB Power's Suzanne Desrosiers, NB Department of Energy's Shelley Rinehart)

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