Identifies educational and training programs in the energy sector that have responded to technological innovations, and highlights the innovations’ implications for the workforce.
"To address the challenges of ensuring a skilled, adaptable workforce for the energy sector, the National Energy Technology Laboratory asked RAND to partner with the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board to help determine how the postsecondary education and training system (which includes short-term certification and workforce-training programs, community-college programs conferring associate’s degrees, and four-year bachelor’s degree–granting institutions) could meet the growing and shifting skill demands for labor from the energy sector due to technological innovation. [This] study focused on the shifting demands on the semiskilled workforce in southwestern Pennsylvania (SWPA) from now through 2020.

The study had three objectives:

1. Document key technological innovations currently taking place in the energy sector as a way to better predict where growth in jobs and shifts in skills may be needed

2. Identify possible best practices of educational and training programs that have successfully responded to innovations in other sectors

3. Determine the implications of these innovations and provide recommendations for the energy-sector education and training system in SWPA.

The findings from this study can be used as a springboard for deeper discussion among regional education and training institutions, business leaders in the energy industry, and nonprofit organizations devoted to supporting the employability of local talent in the energy sector. [The authors] expect that this report will be used in a workshop setting in which these regional partners initiate specific practices to collaboratively develop programming, policies, and implementation strategies to ensure that administrators of postsecondary education and training institutions undertake practices to best prepare programs that support employment of local talent in the energy sector” (p.x-xi).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Full Publication Title: Energy-Sector Workforce Development in Southwestern Pennsylvania: Aligning Education and Training  with Innovation and Needed Skills

Major Findings & Recommendations

The authors found the following key findings: “Four drivers motivate innovation in the energy sector” (p.xii), including: • “Increasing productivity in energy extraction • Minimizing risk of environmental damage and reducing emissions of carbon dioxide • Integrating renewable energy into the grid • Improving energy end-use efficiency” (p.xiii). “The energy sector needs an agile, skilled workforce to adapt to changes in technology and innovation” (p.xiii) with core competencies that include: • “Content knowledge of the industry in question • Transferable, hands-on skills, including facility with computers and information technology (such as data analytics and geographic information system mapping), welding, and other practical skills workers can use across industries • Soft skills or workplace competencies, such as dependability, safety awareness, and decisionmaking and problem-solving” (p.xiii). “Five practices characterize postsecondary training and education programs that best meet the needs of an evolving labor market,” which include (p.xiii): • “A well-developed mechanism to anticipate demand for specific occupations by developing consistent, ongoing relationships with industry leaders” (p.xiii). • “Curricula that include occupation-specific and generic skills” (p.xiv). • “Complementary in-class and workplace learning opportunities” (p.xiv). • “Quality instructors with workplace and teaching experience” (p.xiv). • “Ongoing quality-assurance processes” (p.xv). “Southwestern Pennsylvania’s regional education and training providers display some aspects of the five promising practices” (p.xv), including: • “Mechanisms for anticipating occupation demands through relationships with industry leaders were not typical” (p.xv). • “Curricula across the institutions included occupation-specific and generic skills, but delivery varied” (p.xv). • “Workplace learning opportunities to complement in-class opportunities were not evident” (p.xv). • “Hiring quality instructors with workplace and teaching experience has proven difficult” (p.xvi). • “Programs need to undertake ongoing quality-assurance practices” (p.xvi). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)