[Date Prev][Date Next]
[cdn-nucl-l] Ontario faces shortage of electricity workers
Posted in the Toronto Star on June 8, 2006 and at:
Ontario faces shortage of electricity workers
Jun. 8, 2006. 01:00 AM
A major power shortage isn't the only crisis expected to hit Ontario's
electricity market in the coming decade.
The industry estimates up to 40 per cent of employees in the electricity
sector will be eligible to retire within the next 10 years, a reality that
is prompting power generators and transmission operators across the province
to step up efforts to attract a new generation of technicians, mechanical
engineers, electricians - and nuclear operators.
"It's a big issue, there's no doubt about it," said Duncan Hawthorne, chief
executive officer and president of nuclear power operator Bruce Power. "We
face a significant turnover of staff."
That's why Bruce Power has teamed up with the Power Workers' Union, Ontario
Power Generation and Hydro One to promote skilled trades in the electricity
sector and associated apprenticeship programs as an alternative to
university or college.
Their TradeUp program (tradeup.ca), spearheaded by the workers union, is
aimed at Grade 9 and 10 students, their parents and high school guidance
counsellors, with a goal to raise awareness of the kind of careers that will
be plentiful in the electricity sector over the coming years.
"We picked Grade 9s and 10s, because research shows that's when kids start
thinking about their career choices," said Vivian Yoanidis, from the human
resources department of transmission system operator Hydro One.
Yoanidis said a survey of more than 3,000 parents and students last year
found that there were no negative perceptions about trade careers, but
respondents did say there was a lack of information about what was out there
and how opportunities could be pursued.
"Guidance counsellors weren't really aware of trades, but also specifically
trades in the electricity sector."
On the issue of nuclear, Hawthorne said part of the problem is that the
industry went into hibernation in the 1990s because of the belief that
nuclear power - dogged by safety and waste disposal concerns - had fallen
out of favour as a preferred technology for producing power.
"If you look back five years ago, you wouldn't be able to find a nuclear
engineering university degree," he said. "The industry was not expanding,
and universities aren't going to run programs if there isn't employment
"Nuclear programs had more or less been curtailed."
The industry, however, is enjoying a renaissance. Despite unanswered
questions surrounding the storage of spent uranium, many countries have
identified nuclear power as a cleaner alternative to coal and a way of
meeting carbon-reduction requirements under the Kyoto protocol.
The perceived potential of the industry is evident in the stock valuations
of uranium miners. Shares in Saskatoon-based Cameco Corp., for example, have
jumped more than sixfold over the past three years. The market price of
uranium has increased by the same amount over the past five years, partly on
the belief that China plans to build dozens of new nuclear power plants over
the next 14 years.
In Canada, it's widely expected that the Ontario government will announce
next week that it supports in principle a controversial plan to expand the
province's nuclear power capacity over the next 20 years, putting more
pressure on both nuclear and transmission operators to address an expected
"You have to have a long-term view. You have to have it with equipment, and
certainly have to have it with people," said Hawthorne. "So we're having to
play catch up."
He said 8,000 skilled workers will need to be hired by 2020 to accommodate
both industry growth and fill positions left vacant through retirement.
Within the next five years alone, it's estimated that 26 per cent of the
workforce in the electricity sector will be eligible to retire.
Yoanidis said in the past year Hydro One has hired 485 apprentices across
the board to help bridge the gap.
Additional articles by Tyler Hamilton