Mentoring - Key in Development of the Smart Grid

Mentoring - Key in Development of the Smart Grid

Today, an increased number of businesses in every industry are embracing the concept of mentoring as a professional development tool. Through mentoring, organizations are witnessing significant improvements in efficiency, productivity and the passing of institutional knowledge and leadership skills from one generation to the next.

It is common knowledge in the electric power industry today that there is an increasingly urgent need looming overhead. As a result of the baby boomer generation reaching retirement age, attrition, skills gaps in applicants, and development of new technology such as grid modernization, utilities hiring managers are facing the challenge of closing that gap. Mentoring, I believe, is the key element for development and retention of Smart Grid Talent.

In addition, we are experiencing idled growth in the number of domestic graduates who possess the desired degrees, certifications and experience levels needed to mind the gap. This infographic summarizes the circumstances and contributing factors leading to the substantial interlude in qualified Smart Grid talent.

Loss of Knowledge

In addition to the gap, many of the senior utilities workers tend to communicate orally. Therefore, documentation in the database is incomplete, and contains voids. When the senior workers leave, so does critical knowledge.

This is where the utilization of mentoring programs becomes an essential element for the success of the Smart Grid.

Younger workers are generally much more technologically savvy, and this is critical for future development of the Smart Grid. This development will require technically progressive measures.

The knowledge gap between baby boomers who are rapidly leaving the industry and the new workforce entering can be bridged through mentoring programs and collaboration efforts. Hiring managers have caught on to this and are utilizing these types of programs actively and successfully. They are developing knowledge transfer strategies so that critical information does not walk out the door with retirees.

Mentoring is Vital for Solving Long Term Challenges

As a matter of fact, last year, networking with industry organizations to share best practices, mentoring was identified the number one way to solve these long term challenges. An increasing number of utilities are also engaging academia and working together to develop human resources solutions.

Connecting key talent at every level, across the spectrum is necessary and urgent. We recognize this and are placing all of our efforts into solving this urgent staffing need. Take a look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2egKIW5Yv5k

Becky Blalock, Southern Company's retiring CIO, pointed out that.

"This is a very old industry. The average worker is way up there, and they're going to retire. I'm a great example of that," Blalock said. "You don't just walk into this industry and understand it Day One. It's very, very complicated, and I think it takes years."

The Smart Grid industry is one in which learning is continuous. Even the brightest students graduating and entering the industry will not completely understand the complexity after a number of years. Mentors, academic focus on the industry, connecting and collaboration on all levels of the Smart Grid work force are necessary and urgent.

The Energy Central's Employment Services Division re- cently aired a webcast that focused on mentoring within the utility. Mentoring, they pointed out, brings about change that develops, improves, grows, and reinvents people. If done correctly, a mentoring program can significantly assist a utility. 67 percent of employees in all industries say they learned more from coworkers than from bosses, and 75 percent of executives feel mentoring was a key element to their success.

It will be imperative to retain institutional knowledge through the process of mentoring.

Equally important are the changes in training of young people entering into the work force.

Funding from the U.S. Department of Energy is going to schools and universities who are now in the process of developing new training programs aligned with the needs of the progressive Smart Grid technology sector of electric power. These schools are in the process of developing new training programs, strategies and curricula related to the electric power sector and the smart grid.

Additionally, funding is going to Smart Grid workforce training projects for new hires and retraining programs for electric utility workers and equipment manufacturers. These projects focus on Smart Grid technologies and their implementation as well.

With more leaders on every level putting their trust in these and other facets of mentoring, the future is looking brighter. Mentoring relationships will mind the gap and develop and retain the exceptional talent that will make the Smart Grid a reality.

My Personal Experience with Mentoring

As the Managing Director of Merwin Group, I can look back at the significant personal developments made in my career as a result of mentoring relationships.

During my years at T&D equipment supplier Siemens and a major Utility, Exelon, I had mentors who assisted me in many areas, including making board presentations for new business opportunities. The mentors, who were from multiple business segments, Services Engineering and Financial/Business, shared an extensive range of perspectives.

The education and guidance flowed in both directions within this valuable mentoring relationship. They expressed their appreciation and approaches I was advocating as well.

Throughout the years I have remained in contact and have positive feedback on the valuable learning they had received regarding new technology applications with many of my hiring managers and candidates. Consistent, positive feedback continues, and advances in development and results in both directions continues today. By establishing close connections to those that have been mentoring, the growth that hiring authorities have experienced in adopting to technology advancements is tremendous.

Source: Energy Central

SMART GRID Bulletin March 2017


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