Never has our world depended so much on reliable, resilient and readily available energy sources. And in the coming years, the ability to deliver the same level of quality at dramatically increased levels will be even more important; the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that, by 2035, China’s demand will rise 60% while India’s is set to more than double.

Every industry relies heavily on the skills and experience of its people, particularly when it comes to managing complex systems and handling intricate machinery; this is most evident in the energy industry. What’s worrisome is that half of the electric utility workforce is expected to retire within the next ten years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

Without careful planning in anticipation, this massive departure of skilled, knowledgeable resources could be devastating to the power industry. While this eventual loss of staff certainly has the potential to be detrimental, there are ways to adapt.

Automated Processes

The majority of plant operations are complex systems involving intricate machinery, but with the increased sophistication of many technologies, many can be largely automated.

Choosing to automate certain processes can streamline work, particularly if the remaining talent can manage these systems capably. For best results, it is important to integrate diagnostic systems directly into the equipment, which can help optimize processes and pinpoint potential problems before they happen. This allows your team to fix equipment without unscheduled downtime and avoid panic mode in the case of a system breakdown.

Consistent examinations and routine, in-depth assessments are essential to ensure these processes are not left to be purely self-sufficient.

Augmented Talent

If it is possible for your plant to run smoothly on a decreased staff for a majority of the time, then there are ways to supplement workers lost to retirement. Enlist the services of local contract teams to work onsite during high needs periods. These services teams can streamline work during planned outages and help perform routine maintenance on instruments and valves.

Introducing new talent to boost performance can help compensate for lost knowledge without relying heavily on inexperienced workers as they get up to speed.

Comprehensive Training

When it is time to hire new talent, incorporate cross-experienced education in any and all training. Rather than separating the veterans from the rookies, utilize the in-house knowledge and experience earned through years on the job. Encourage an atmosphere of shared understanding and hands-on demonstration. Raise awareness of the importance of sharing skills to improve the effectiveness of your assets and ultimately, facilitate this transition. You can also use simulators to create a virtual environment that mimics your actual process.

Eventual loss of experienced talent is one challenge that at least gives fair warning. Take action now to compensate for the future challenge—and remember to hold your employees as the valuable resources they are.