Michigan utilities face growing lineman shortage
- Utilities in Michigan are struggling to find enough workers to maintain the state's grid, the Detroit News reports, due to a rise in lineman retirements following years of stagnant hiring.
- Bonuses and incentives paid to attract qualified workers are raising costs for consumers, and in some instances, utilities are unable to fill specific positions.
- Michigan's Workforce Development Agency has estimated the state will need to grow its line worker ranks by about 1,000 in the next five years to keep up with labor demand.
The utility sector's aging workforce has long been identified as a problem for the sector. A Utility Dive survey this year found it to be the industry's second largest concern, right behind aging infrastructure. But now the Detroit News reports those concerns are coming home to roost, with consumers facing higher bills, and potentially longer outages and a more fragile power grid.
The newspaper reported on the state's utility hiring crisis, noting specifically that Mackinac Island has been unable to find a qualified lineman to live there for $70,000 annually. Bay City Electric and Power recently enacted an emergency salary increase to maintain workers, and union groups are reporting the majority of locals are understaffed.
Michigan's Workforce Development Agency has estimated lineman ranks will need to grow from roughly 2,500 workers to 3,500 workers in the next five years.
Utilities have been looking for new ways to retain skilled workers, paying bonuses and raising salaries. Increasingly, they are looking to hire away from other utilities or private firms. “To the extent we can find them we are going to hire, otherwise we have to pilfer them from contractors," DTE Energy's Tracy DiSanto, manager of workforce planning and analytics, told the newspaper.
- The Detroit News Power line workers are hot commodity in Michigan
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