Finding, retaining, and replacing talent is a constant challenge for a business. Some professions have it easier than others because their pool of potential talent is deep and constantly refreshed by eager graduates who are hopefully job-ready. Other professions, however, have a dwindling talent pool with a drastically lower refresh rate. Based on my observations, many professions within the Energy industry are faced with these shallow pools.
While there are any number of reasons for the shrinking pool of talent, one of the most prevalent is the phenomenon often referred to as the graying of the workforce. For example, as a Professional Land Surveyor, I’m in a profession that is seriously graying. In the State of Washington, the Board of Licensing for Engineers and Surveyors tells us that the average age of current Licensed Professional Surveyors is well above 55, and climbing; for the record, I'm 63. That’s going to create a serious shortage of qualified surveyors within the next 5 to 10 years. It’s not just about years of experience, it’s also about the loss of institutional knowledge.
I’m sure you can relate to this predicament. If your business model is dependent on a graying profession you may be facing a challenge finding your next hire. Is there anything you can do to help deepen the pool in your profession? The answer is yes. Here are some proactive ideas I’ve seen implemented in the Energy industry that you can explore.
Are you offering your younger employees on-the-job mentoring that encourages them to stay engaged in the profession? This is a great way for your more experienced workers to begin transferring their knowledge and experience to the next generation. For instance, it’s common for surveyors to come up through the ranks rather than completing college-level programs. Providing an active mentoring program, in conjunction with the required years of experience, can help them attain licensure even without a college degree.
Professional organizations exist for just about every career imaginable. These organizations often have active scholarship programs designed to assist students on their chosen career paths. Track these scholarship opportunities and inform your younger workers when they’re available. Even better, encourage your company to provide a scholarship itself.
If you have a local college or trade school, you can encourage your experienced staff to consider offering their services in some way. They can be guest speakers or even teach an entire class. Many of our survey staff members have taught survey classes at our local community college, and it has proven to be a great investment in both our company’s future and the future of the profession.
Offering paid internships to students enrolled in relevant college programs can pay big dividends. You can even provide summer internships to high school students interested in your field. Give them an opportunity to put their knowledge to use and to see the actual world they will be entering soon. This is an excellent tool to both mentor and recruit.
Become involved with your local schools. Find ways to partner with school districts, whether it’s through donations to support existing programs or helping to start new ones. This can be your chance to let your business and vocation shine.
What better way is there to reach the next generation of professionals than to get teachers excited about teaching some element of the profession? As an example, some in the land surveying field have partnered with their local Surveyor’s Association and/or local college to develop classroom-ready teaching units that can be introduced to local teachers. This is a long-term strategy, of course, but I believe it’s important to think both long-and short-term.
Having highly-experienced employees is a tremendous asset. As more of the seasoned workers approach retirement, it's essential to proactively find younger employees who can learn from them and advance the profession into the next generation. I’ve found these ideas to be productive in promoting the land surveying profession to younger people, and I think they’ll be useful in other graying professions within the Energy market too. I hope you will try some of them and let me know how they work for you.
Photo Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District