Surprise, surprise: workforce issues are a top concern for utilities
Recruiting talent to fill critical positions is the biggest issue facing Patrice Alexander in her role as director of human resources for Greenville Utilities Commission.
Workforce issues are a high-impact concern for nearly 60 percent of APPA member utilities, according to a June 2013 telephone survey of member CEOs.
Patrice Alexander, chair of APPA’s Human Resources & Training Committee, understands that concern. Alexander is director of human resources for Greenville Utilities in North Carolina. Recruiting strategically to fill critical positions is the biggest challenge she faces at GUC, she said.
"Approximately 30 percent of our workforce will be eligible to retire in the next three to five years," Alexander said. "Many of the candidates that we will be looking for, for example, engineers and IT professionals, will also be in high demand by other utilities and industries. Given our size, we generally hire one or two of these positions at a time."
Greenville serves 64,000 electricity customers and has more than 140 employees. The utility also provides water, sewer and gas utility services to the city of Greenville and most of Pitt County.
"As a public utility, it is often challenging to be competitive in the marketplace when we are looking for specialized skills and experience," Alexander said. We recognize the value of providing co-op and internship opportunities for students who may be developing the very skills that we will need in the future. We are committed to providing ongoing training and development opportunities for all our employees; we know that this will be an advantage going forward as we celebrate well-deserved retirements and step forward into the future."
Alexander said her experience as chair of the APPA Human Resources & Training Committee has been valuable because of the opportunities it creates to meet with other HR professionals who are facing similar challenges. "We all face some of the same challenges no matter our focus or specialization," she said.
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