As IEEE celebrates its 125th anniversary on May 13, it is also addressing the challenges ahead. The Center for Energy Workforce Development estimates that 45% of engineers in electric utilities will be eligible for retirement, or may leave for other reasons, in the next five years. What’s more, the educators of new engineers are also aging. The U.S. Power and Energy Engineering Workforce Collaborative, led by the IEEE Power and Energy Society, concluded that 40% of power engineering university faculty will be eligible for retirement in five years, with 27% likely to do so.
The challenge is not limited just to replacing retiring engineers. More engineers, trained with a new set of skills, are needed to build new generation facilities and a modern electricity delivery system with smart grid technologies. Legacy technologies must be kept operational and made more efficient from cost and environmental perspectives.
IEEE acknowledges this challenge and is responding through a wide range of efforts, including the following:
- Promoting engineering careers to K-12 and university students, parents, teachers, and counselors. Work is being done to rebrand engineering as an interesting profession that can make a difference in the world. This message is conveyed to students through volunteer work of IEEE members. IEEE Women in Engineering, for example, conduct work sessions with middle and high school female students. The National Engineers’ Week Future City Competition, driven by IEEE members, is a program in which seventh- and eighth-grade students present their visions of the city of the future. The program has become one of the largest nonprofit engineering outreach programs in the world.
- Improving technology literacy along with science and math skills. To ensure that more K-12 students become engineers, preparation for advanced educational programs beyond high school is crucial. IEEE members are creating lesson plans and class resources, making classroom presentations and building simulations that grab students’ attention and reach beyond the normal curriculum. Recently, faculty and staff in power and computer engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign built applets for middle school students to help them understand power and energy in the home, and how the power system works technically and economically. The IEEE-USA Pre-College Education Committee supports local activities that help promote technological literacy through grant programs.
- Helping engineers with career planning and continuing education, as well as finding job opportunities. IEEE provides resources to support the career aspirations of its members. IEEE-USA maintains an extensive collection of web-based resources for career planning, employment and salary data, webinars, workshops, and professional development. IEEE hosts the IEEE JobSite for job and resume postings, and Employment Navigator for job searches. To meet the particular needs of power and energy engineering students, the IEEE Power & Energy Society created PES-Careers, a free online job and internship service.
- Supporting collaborative actions to address engineering workforce concerns. IEEE is leading collaborative actions with industry, government, and educational institutions, assisting them in finding solutions to the engineering workforce challenges. The U.S. Power and Energy Engineering Workforce Collaborative recently issued a comprehensive action plan to help build a stronger engineering workforce for future electric systems. In the government arena, the IEEE-USA recently publicized its position on the U.S. Department of Energy’s use of $100M for electricity delivery worker training appropriated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
To learn more about IEEE and its efforts, visit www.ieee.org.