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Najlaa Rauf
VP of People and Culture - Spark Power Corp.

Transitioning Canada’s Electricity Workforce

Published on

Takeaways

  1. The technological advancements required for electrification are creating new jobs and skill sets needed in the electricity industry.
  2. Employees in the electricity industry can look forward to new opportunities for growth and deeper involvement thanks to the movement towards clean energy.
  3. Cross-functionality is a key component of the future electrical industry’s workforce, creating opportunities for different specialists to collaborate.

Action

The trades are an exciting place for employees to be in because of the significant impact they will have on global sustainability. Awareness needs to be raised among the youth that the electricity industry in particular will provide them the opportunity to make a difference and acquire key skills for the future economy.


What are the main forces shaping the future of Canada’s electricity industry? 

This is a really exciting time to be part of this industry with decarbonization and the movement looking towards alternative solutions to energy, in wind, solar, and even gas. The renewable space is very exciting to be in, and it is exciting to be in the electrical industry as we find new and innovative ways to produce power and energy, and to roll that into the commercialization of our world, particularly in Ontario and Canada. A lot of people are starting to get excited about electrification, distributed energy, and on-site energy production, as well as how to use that energy to either offset energy received from the grid or sell it back into the grid to become self-sufficient.  

“Advancements in technology and more electrification mean more interesting jobs with new skills for our energy workforce to learn.” 

Where do I think this is going? It is heading in a very cool direction with technology, artificial intelligence (AI), and electrical vehicles getting us there. My husband and I own an EV, it is very exciting. What does that mean for people in our industry? Advancements in technology and more electrification mean more interesting jobs with new skills for our energy workforce to learn.  


How are megatrends like electrification and sustainability affecting qualification requirements in the sector?  

Industry megatrends are showing us how to transform and adapt our workforce’s skill sets for the future. Workers are learning to utilize problem solving and critical thinking to understand how the electrical grid works and how power and energy can serve as an important aspect of sustainability in our world. We are going through a transition period. We still need to understand the needs of energy consumers today while transitioning to new forms of energy production.  

For technical employees, this a very exciting time to upgrade some of their training and development to transform their skill sets along the way. We still need individuals who can understand, troubleshoot, install, and maintain these types of systems. It also gives us a whole new customer base for us to identify trends and analyze data so that we can come up with new processes on how to become more energy efficient. 


How passionate are new entrants to the electricity workforce, and is it an asset recruiters look for?  

At Spark Power, we have new hires and people have been with us a number of years that are excited about the opportunities that the energy transition will bring. We are a pole-to-product company and we have several different types of technical services such as high-voltage and low-voltage renewables. The exciting part is when we go out and you speak to different populations, they are interested in what is happening over here and how to get more involved. I would love to go top-tower to learn more about the electrical experience on the renewable side. There are many opportunities and there is a lot of passion and excitement. There is a huge force of up-and-coming talent that cares very deeply about being part of a solution to the climate problem, which has long been a challenge for the us. A lot of people are excited about the opportunities that we can provide at our company because we perform a full scope of work and services. This gives a holistic view of the work that is to come and that there are many opportunities for people to build their skills along the way. 

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What are the top skills that will be needed in the power industry’s workforce in the future?  

A basic understanding of the electrical components of any system is so important and that knowledge should never be lost. As we are transitioning and transforming, having subject matter experts who can teach and provide knowledge is really important. Continuing to enhance technological skills is going to be important to the energy sector’s upcoming work as we continue to use more computers and even have AI available to help make decisions. Even then, we still need people to make critical decisions and interpret and analyze that information. As automated as some of our work is, we still need individuals who can make decisions. For instance, working safely is one of the most important things in the energy industry. People are needed to make sure everyone goes home safe. Having that human aspect and ability to interpret and solve problems is going to be one of the most important things we do. 


How should power companies approach recruiting and onboarding new workers for the energy transition?  

I cannot emphasize enough that working safely is the most important aspect of our industry. It is important to ensure that new workers get the training required for critical thinking to embed a safety culture within the organization. Bringing in diverse groups from across different platforms, ways of thinking, and educational backgrounds is going to be important.  

“The worker in the field may need to collaborate and work cross-functionally with a cohort on the backend working on the technology.” 

We have to work, more so than ever, cross-functionally. The worker in the field may need to collaborate and work cross-functionally with a cohort on the backend working on the technology. It is important for us to create a training and onboarding ground that allows individuals to seek knowledge and continue to build on the skills they received in apprenticeships programs or through schooling. 


Is there more collaboration in the energy industry in Canada in response to the energy transition 

Yes, absolutely. We have cross-functional teams working on projects that require knowledge of battery storage in terms of the renewable component, high-voltage expertise, and electrical experience. Internally, we are already collaborating and working together. Externally, we have thought and industry leaders who we also collaborate with. It is almost like unchartered territory. We have not yet scratched the surface of what we are going to be able to do. As we learn more, we are able to connect the dots back to the different types of work we do within the electrical industry. Personally, I am involved with the Electricity Human Resources Canada team in looking at future generations and how that is going to impact how we recruit and retain top talent. 


Should the electricity industry be communicating better with youth about available opportunities?  

There is a challenge with labour in a potential labour shortage of tens of thousands of people coming down the pipeline. We should prioritize trades within educational institutions and high schools to emphasize the great opportunities in the electricity industry. We spend a lot of time with our junior employees trying to understand how we can promote ourselves as an organization. A lot of times, this is done through word of mouth, but we want to find out how to make that net larger and even engage newcomers to our country who might have an electrical or engineering background. How do we communicate these opportunities to high schoolers, as they may not think of an electrical company as a traditional workplace? As an industry, we are starting to think about how to engage and involve secondary institutions to shift the mindset towards trades roles being different from people’s preconceptions.  


What and who would you pitch to strengthen and improve how Canada trains our future energy workforce?  

If I had to pitch to anyone out there, I would encourage youth to consider a role in the trades or in the electricity industry. I never thought that I would end up in a place that was quite different from what I had originally thought of it, but where we are heading in terms of electrification is very exciting.  

“I would encourage youth to consider a role in the trades or in the electricity industry.” 

The ability to transform an industry is attractive for people who think critically and love to problem solve. There are a lot of different skill sets that you can use in the electricity industry and as we continue to grow into a new sustainable world, your voice will be heard. You have an opportunity to not only build yourself a great career but also be part of a movement that is going to be very important. If I had to give any feedback or advice, it is to encourage the youth to think about a role in our industry today.  

Najlaa Rauf
VP of People and Culture - Spark Power Corp.

Bio: Najlaa Rauf is the Vice President of People and Culture (Human Resources) at Spark Power. She has over 10 years of experience in employee engagement, human resources, and leadership development in non-profit, education, and electrical contracting services. She is responsible for leading the organization in the areas of culture and talent attraction, retention, and development. She has a Master’s in Business Administration in Human Resources from the Goodman School of Business at Brock University 

 

Organization Profile: Spark Power is an electrical company providing services such as electrical and power projects, on-site facility services, renewable asset services, sustainability solutions, and more. Their focus is on sustainable electrical solutions such as solar energy, overseeing a number of different solar energy developments and projects. Originally founded in Ontario, they have since opened a new branch in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and have expanded to a number of locations in the United States.