Tackle your labour shortages head on:Hydro Ottawa teamed with Algonquin College to groom next generation
What if 40 per cent or more of your workforce was eligible for retirement within the next 10 years?
It’s an all too common reality in many skilled trades faced with an aging workforce. In fact, it’s been estimated that Canada needs one million new skilled trades workers by 2020.
Hydro Ottawa is no exception. Almost 44% of its trades and technical workforce is forecasted to retire by 2023 – a critical issue considering that a highly skilled workforce is essential to maintaining operational capacity and high-quality service.
The local utility took a proactive and innovative approach to address the issue. It partnered with Algonquin College to create a new Powerline Technician Diploma Program that has allowed Hydro Ottawa to attract new trades talent and successfully prepare for the future.
“The key to our success with this program has been to create a win-win-win scenario for our educational partner – Algonquin, the students and our company,” said Lyne Parent-Garvey, Hydro Ottawa’s Chief Human Resources Officer. “An important part of this program is the opportunity for our seasoned workers to transfer their knowledge to the next generation.”
Now in its fourth year, students enrolled in the two-year diploma program develop essential skills to design, plan, construct and maintain electrical distribution lines through class work and hands-on learning. Algonquin College provides classroom instruction, while Hydro Ottawa employees deliver safety and core skills instruction in a practical field environment.
Students graduate with co-operative work experience that can be applied towards an apprenticeship. “For employers, this means they are hiring apprentices who require far less time and investment to become productive,” said Parent-Garvey.
To date, there have been almost 60 graduates from the program. Hydro Ottawa has hired 10 as apprentices, while others have found employment with other utilities and private contractors across Ontario.
Derek Riley was hired full-time by Hydro Ottawa after graduating from the program.
“The instructors were very good mentors and guides,” he said. “It’s a very positive environment and you can look ahead to a good future. After apprentices become certified, you can become a supervisor and look after your own crew in 10 years. It’s a good goal to progress toward.”
Eric Marois, the chair of Architecture, Civil and Building Science at the Algonquin Centre for Construction Excellence, says the collaboration has been a great experience. “Our Powerline students have the incredible opportunity to experience a taste of ‘real life’ employment,” he said. “Creating partnerships with industry is one way that Algonquin College can open up that window to the future for our students.”
Parent-Garvey added that, for any organization facing similar labour challenges, now is the time to act.
“Anticipate and plan early for any workforce challenges you see, because it can take five to eight years to educate and groom the next generation of workers suited to your needs,” she said.
Visit hydroottawa.com/en for more information