In the energy sector, utilities are especially struggling to lure young people to an industry that’s plagued with a somewhat outdated stigma. Peter Darbee, CEO of San Francisco-based Pacific Gas and Electric (NYSE: PCG) in January 2008 told the San Francisco Chronicle that within five years more than 40 percent of the utility’s 20,000 employees will be eligible for retirement. Almost half the nation’s utility workforce will be nearing retirement age by 2016, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
Overall, job seekers with college or technical training will have the best shot at filling utility positions. Computer systems analysts and data analysts are expected to be among the most in-demand workers, in addition to employees with the training to help utilities expand their renewable energy portfolios, according to the Labor Department.
When it comes to training a workforce for a rapidly changing economy, the country’s nearly 1,200 community colleges are at the center of it all. PG&E has even partnered with community colleges to develop its PowerPathway program to train future employees.
With shorter programs and lower tuitions—about $2,360 on average nationwide—than four-year schools, community colleges present fewer barriers to entry for students than private technical colleges or even big, state universities. Plus, many technical and career programs are designed to train and certify workers for in-demand fields in less than a year compared to conventional four-year degree programs.