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How a focus on reskilling could help energy companies address their biggest recruiting challenge.


Meredith Stack


From a hiring standpoint, the energy sector has two big problems: an aging workforce moving headlong toward retirement, and aging infrastructure in desperate need of workers with the skills and experience to keep in running.

Last year the industry added 152,000 new jobs, outperforming the economy as a whole according to The 2019 U.S. Energy & Employment Report by Energy Futures Initiative (EFI) and the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO). Fully 77% of employers reported difficulty finding qualified workers to fill these open roles, and with employment growth expected to continue, they are concerned about their ability to maintain a workforce able to build and maintain our country’s energy systems.

This combination of pressures is creating a talent crisis that requires a more innovative approach to hiring.

Energy industry hiring managers often report that lack of candidate training, experience, or technical skills are major reasons why finding replacement personnel can be so difficult. The longer companies hold out to find those ideal candidates, the worse their chances will be of finding anyone to fill these critical roles.

But what if they didn’t have to find that perfect combination of skills and experience as part of the recruiting process? Could they still meet the needs of customers and their own infrastructure?

The answer is ‘yes’ – if they are willing to change the way they think about talent management.

Hire for the future.

Rather than holding out for perfect candidates who are ready to work on day one, innovative companies take an alternative approach. If they shift their recruiting strategy to focus on hiring raw talent then provide them with training, they can fill most talent gaps and create a workforce that is trained to meet the specific needs of their clientele. Eighty-two percent of executives at large organizations say training and reskilling must now be at least half of the answer to addressing the current skills gap, with 27 percent calling it a top five priority, according to research from McKinsey.

This training-based approach to hiring could transform the recruiting landscape for energy sectors companies. Once they let go of their perfect candidate profiles and invest the time and resource to create effective training and mentoring programs, they can access a much deeper and more diverse talent pool, shortening the time to hire. When done effectively, companies can create an enthusiastic new generation of talent, and provide aging and experienced workers with a chance to share their knowledge before they retire.

Finding candidates who want to learn.

However to do it right, they still need a framework to figure out which applicants will thrive in a learning-centric environment, and who will stumble. These candidates don’t have lengthy resumes proving their skills and experience, and it can be difficult to discern in an interview whether someone has a passion for learning or whether they are just saying what you want to hear.

But you can gain these insights from a pre-employment test. Assessments tell you things about candidates that they may not even know about themselves, like whether they are adaptable in the face of uncertainty, are logical problem-solvers and have good spatial awareness.

Sure you can ask candidates if they have these skills, but who is going to say no? We all like to believe we are good problem solvers and agile risk takers, assessments can validate that.

Customizable screening tools provide recruiters with measurable data about a candidate’s skills, attributes, and personality, including whether they will embrace learning opportunities, and excel in roles that require problem-solving and collaboration. Research has shown that such cognitive testing and pre-employment personality tests are the most accurate predictors of job success.

The rising demand for talent in the energy sector is not going to ebb any time soon. But if energy companies are able to pivot their recruiting strategies, and focus on hiring for potential rather than past experience, they can build a bold new workforce that will sustain them (and our country’s infrastructure) well into the future.

Employee in an energy plant

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