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Great Opportunities Ahead as Energy Industry Sees a Generational Change

By Erdin Beshimov

Uncertain about what the Big Crew Change will bring? Don't hire a clairvoyant just yet. Maybe this article can save you the money.

Energy companies produce and sell energy, and their utility counterparts distribute it to consumers. Sounds simple enough, but the industry's supply chain is a complex sequence of exploration, refining, manufacturing, transportation and marketing of fuel. It can be likened to a vast web of veins carrying oil, gas, biofuels, hydropower, wind and solar energy. As some veins dry out, new ones assume their places, and if they don't, the entire body will feel the impact. 

Even without the anatomic analogy, few industries command such clout as energy and utilities. As a resource that's vital to modern society, energy is at the epicenter of global affairs and an underlying factor in a slew of political and economic developments. Faced with impending resource scarcity and deepening environmental concerns, the industry's to-do includes enhancing resource-extracting technologies, finding environmentally-friendly energy sources, and developing energy-efficient technologies. And last but not least, locating the people to achieve these goals.

This last point presents a particular challenge. People familiar with the energy industry mention the Big Crew Change practically on the first gasp of conversation. The fact is, in a range of sectors such as petroleum the average worker is close to 50 and will retire in the next decade. The industry is facing fierce competition for fresh talent to fill in as older workers fade out. And while companies are slugging it out in talent wars, qualified candidates will see a bonanza of offers as well as a sweet ladder of promotion once they enter the arena.

While total U.S. employment in energy and utilities is expected to decline over the next few years, prospects in a range of sectors couldn't be better. Wind power capacity, for example, is projected to triple or even quadruple in the next decade; it's been the fastest energy technology in the past three years. Wind engineers and architects will be in high demand, as well as those involved in the research, development, and management of wind energy technologies. The same holds true for other alternative energies such as solar, where the call is on for engineers, architects and marketers for alternative energy technologies. Furthermore, owing to recent deregulation of the utilities market, there's unprecedented competition between suppliers of gas and electricity, creating tremendous opportunities for graduates poised for success in marketing and sales. In sum, in this industry keeping a finger on the pulse of the future is the key to success.

The name of the game is change. And the game is on.

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