How do we ensure the shortage of electrical engineering staff doesn’t jeopardize the energy transition?
The energy transition strongly depends on electrification and requires huge adjustments to the infrastructure. Consider the modernization of homes, business premises and energy networks, linking of systems, introducing battery storage on a large scale, installing two million charging stations, upgrading meters, installing solar panels, developing ‘smart grids’ with new functionalities….
A shortage of an important profession
Considerably more electrical engineers are needed to realize the energy transition and the number of vacancies is increasing rapidly. However, the Netherlands has been struggling with a persistent shortage of this professional group for years. The shortage is so great that it threatens to make the energy transition unfeasible – and therefore the climate targets, too. What’s more, network operators are unable to meet statutory connection deadlines for new users in many cases.
The technical market suffers from an unjustified bad image
The electrical engineering sector appears to be suffering from an image problem. The perception still exists that working with electricity is dangerous, dirty and pays badly. But that idea is outdated: over the last century we have seen huge advances in the fields of technology and safety, and exciting crossovers are emerging with, for example, data analysis and artificial intelligence. This makes the technical market interesting for business people, data analysts or economists, too. The electrotechnical sector also offers excellent prospects and rewards right now. In addition, you can make a concrete contribution to sustainability and the energy transition and build a better future. A course such as Sustainable Energy Technology, for example, may largely consist of electrical engineering – but people still think the phrase ‘electrical engineering’ sounds dull. In many cases, the phrase may not cover the full scope of the subject matter.
Making electrical engineering interesting for young people again
It is important to get young people motivated and interested in electrical engineering. We see various parties – from technical employment agencies to sector organizations and educational institutions – taking steps to realize this. For example, our own HyTEPS Power Competence Center works closely with universities and colleges, with the aim of enriching theoretical education with up-to-date practical expertise, and we give seminars and lectures on current topics. We also ensure sufficient placement opportunities for students at university and college level.
By bringing electrical engineering to the attention of students at an early stage – for example in the higher years of primary education – and acquiring more practical experience in training, we prevent the energy transition from grinding to a halt due to a shortage of skilled personnel. Next to education and trade organizations, the business community also has a role to play: it should draw strong attention to the multi-faceted nature of electrical engineering. Furthermore, as a sector, we need to capitalize on the role of electrification in issues that many young people find extremely important, from development cooperation to sustainability.