This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

August 9, 2006

Energy Engineers: Problem, Opportunity

Young people considering career alternatives tell us they are most interested in jobs that will be needed for many years into the future. Watching the decomposition and sudden obsolescence of jobs, they're looking for opportunities with long-term career stability. They want to know what industries will be strong and where the jobs will be.

One industry, that will continue to grow because of demand and technology, is energy, and in particular, power generation. Whether that power comes from coal, oil, ethanol, wind, nuclear, or emerging technologies, there will certainly be a need for more energy throughout the world. With the increasing rate of development in third world countries, opportunities will race ahead of the capacity to adequately respond.

Employers in the energy industry are already challenged. The demand for present-day and short-term future performance is difficult to meet because of a lack of educated, trained, and experienced workers. Today's spotlight illuminates the need for qualified engineers and technicians. The shortage of competent workers goes deep into the industry. We learned recently about problems generating wind power because of a lack of capability in the plants manufacturing the windmill blades.

Tomorrow's needs will include maintaining current levels and expanding capacity at the same time. We will need design and construction engineers, as well as production and operations specialists. Where are tomorrow's engineers? Are they in our universities? Many of them are foreign nationals who, after graduation, will return to their home countries to fill the needs in those environments. What about the next wave? Are today's high school and college students preparing to become tomorrow's engineers?

We have a serious problem. In the United States and in most other countries around the world, insufficient emphasis is placed on mathematics, science, technology, and communication in our public schools. Not enough of today's students are being prepared to enter our universities and then the engineering profession.

Employers and educators must work together to guide and inspire more young people into energy-related engineering or we will face serious challenges. Without power, economic growth will be stymied, inhibiting the development of many other job opportunities.

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