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Houston expert shares strategies for addressing the energy industry’s potential workforce shortages

Retirement is coming for the energy industry's workforce. Here's how to prepare for it. Photo via Getty Images

The energy industry, a vital part of Houston’s business ecosystem, faces the challenge of a shrinking workforce.

A U.S. Chamber of Commerce report indicates the workforce has nearly two million fewer workers today as compared to February 2020. A considerable part of this decline can be attributed to retirement and early retirement rates, with the pandemic prompting three million people to early retirement. Furthermore, with an estimated 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 daily, the entire generation is expected to reach retirement age by 2030.

The tight labor market, coupled with the growing brain drain associated with retirement rates, should serve as a wake-up call for employers in the energy sector. There are tried-and-true strategies to prepare businesses for waves of retirement and ensure the knowledge does not walk out the door.

Upskilling: Invest in the workforce 

Knowledge and skills go with workers are they retire. To mitigate the brain drain, companies need to invest in upskilling their existing employees and new hires. Establishing formal training and development opportunities can help enrich the workforce to pick up the responsibilities of retiring colleagues. This investment ensures a smooth transition, shows employees they are valued by the organization, and increases employee loyalty and engagement.

Adopting innovative training programs that cater to the specific needs of the energy sector is one approach. Technologies rapidly evolve, and employees must stay current to remain effective in their roles. Investing in the latest training programs, workshops and certifications will enable the workforce to thrive in a rapidly changing industry.

Mentoring programs: Pass the torch

Mentorship programs can play a pivotal role as more employees retire. Experienced employees nearing retirement can mentor younger workers, transferring knowledge and skills while ensuring a seamless transition of expertise. The value of mentorship programs can be priceless for an organization as they help transfer on-the-job learning and experiences that are not taught in the classroom.

A structured mentorship program usually proves most effective as it outlines the responsibilities of the mentors and mentees. A structured approach, which should have built-in accountability measures, ensures there is a productive knowledge transfer process.

Intentional recruitment: Attract and retain talent

A proactive recruitment approach is essential as businesses work to fill knowledge gaps. Companies in the energy sector should seek out talent to bridge the generational divide. This may include targeting candidates who have the relevant skills and knowledge, yet they are willing to adapt to the industry’s changing landscape.

Workplace culture is still a relevant and important component of attracting and retaining top-notch talent. Beyond competitive compensations packages, today’s job candidates look for growth opportunities and a focus on work-life balance.

Retaining knowledge: Document the expertise

Institutional knowledge will walk out the door as experienced employees retire. Companies can prepare for and mitigate the knowledge migration with knowledge-sharing systems and comprehensive documentation processes. An established process can help preserve information that may seem like second nature to more experienced employees and make it accessible to current and future employees. Asking retiring employees to document their expertise and best practices can safeguard their insights within the organization.

Covering bases: Create an alumni network

Retirement does not always mean the employee wants to hang up their proverbial hat entirely. Filling the knowledge gap as employees retire can be daunting. However, the development of an alumni network can extend the life of the institutional knowledge and knowledge-sharing process. Bringing back retirees on a project basis or to consult is a solution benefiting everyone involved.

Every industry must prepare for the impending wave of retirements. The energy industry’s significant impact on the Houston economy requires proactive and thoughtful solutions. The tight labor market and retirement rates should have businesses in this sector working diligently to fill the upcoming knowledge gaps through upskilling, mentoring, intentional recruitment, knowledge-sharing systems and alumni networks. Taking these steps now, the energy industry can circumnavigate workforce shortages and prepare for continued success.

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Jill Chapman is a director of early talent programs with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

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A View From HETI

Nine companies have joined Greentown Houston. Photo via Getty Images

Greentown Labs announced that it added nine climatetech start-ups in Q2 of this year.

The new members of the incubator, which is co-located in Houston and Boston, work in a variety of fields from electricity to manufacturing and agriculture.

The companies in the Houston location include:

  • GS Vortex Systems, a Portland-based company that focuses on cost reduction and flow assurance in piping systems. Its hydrodynamic flow technology allows for higher flow through existing pipes that increases productivity and reduces emissions. It’s based in Houston and Tampa.
  • BiaTech Corporation, applies AI and machine learning fto natural resource infrastructure immersion to help energy and utilities produce more with lower risks of production disruptions
  • InfraNergy, a Florida-based clean energy infrastructure provider that develops clean energy projects via virtual power plants to reduce power costs and drive decarbonization
  • Neuralix, a Dallas-based startup that offers a suite of rapid, customizable templates for data lifecycle for the energy and manufacturing sectors
  • Reverse Energy Solutions, a Chicago-based startup that provides cost-effective solar panel recycling through streamlined collection and transportation processes
  • Terralytiq, which has developed an enterprise software platform for industrial supply chains, that helps reduce supply chain costs and carbon. It’s headquartered in Austin.
  • EnergyGigs, a talent and freelance platform for the energy industry based in Houston
  • Metalex, a commodity trading firm with operations in Africa that delivers carbon-neutral critical metals that are processed in a decarbonized supply chain
  • TDS Select, which has developed a modular, scalable water-treatment technology to desalinate brackish water using low-energy

According to Greentown, another 11 startups joined the nonprofit's Boston incubator.

Greentown Labs, with the Browning the Green Space, named the second cohort for the Advancing Climatetech and Clean Energy Leaders Program, or ACCEL, in the spring. The accelerator, which works to advance BIPOC-led startups in the climatetech space, launched in 2022.

It also named 6 energy tech startups to Shell-backed accelerator in October.

Earlier this month the climatetech incubator added three new members to its board of directors. This came after CEO and President Kevin Knobloch announced he would be stepping down at the end of July. Kevin Dutt was recently named interim CEO of the organization.

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