Labour market for technical talent
The shortage of technicians poses a challenge for the entire energy sector as well as society as a whole. In 2018, we filled 628 vacancies, including 294 vacancies for technical positions in operations. Finding suitable candidates is becoming increasingly difficult. Moreover, training people to carry out our specific work takes a long time and puts great pressure on experienced operational staff. We believe it is our task to ensure a growing job market for technicians in the next few years. We are doing this by, among other things, demonstrating how interesting and challenging our work is. We offer training opportunities to newcomers to our sector, young people, and people at a distance from the labour market, and we work with the education sector to increase interest in technology among young people, their parents and teachers.
For several years, we have actively conducted an intensive recruitment campaign on several fronts (both internal and external) to highlight the shortage of technicians within our company. Employees can introduce new technicians to Alliander through the internal referral programme, ‘Alliander Werft!’ (‘Alliander is recruiting!’). Various new roles were added to this programme in 2018. A total of 145 potential candidates were introduced through the programme in 2018, and 45 of them were offered a contract.
In 2018, we made six virtual reality videos to provide a real-life experience of what our work involves. Some 2,500 technicians who work for Alliander received a VR headset so that they could show the videos to their families and friends. The videos have also been used in our recruitment campaigns and in job interviews. This way of demonstrating how interesting our work is reinforces our image of an attractive, modern employer. We also noted that it makes our employees more proud of the work that they do.
We developed a procedure to assess whether individuals without a technical background or relevant previous education have an affinity with technology. This will promote the influx of promising newcomers from other sectors. In addition, we make use of training capacity at external parties.
Strengthening ties with the education sector
We are aware that a technical job is not high on the list of preferred career options. In response to this situation, the government, construction companies, technology companies and educational institutions are joining forces. During the year under review, the establishment of a construction and engineering innovation centre was announced and work was done on creating a shared, appropriate range of training courses (including courses leading to senior secondary vocational education and training qualifications). In addition, energy companies are strengthening their ties with educational institutions and schools to introduce children and young people to the fulfilling and inspiring field of energy technology at an early stage. At the end of the summer, eleven students with senior general secondary education (HAVO) diplomas started a new training course at Alliander. Over the space of two years, we will train these students for a graduate-level technical role, and at the end of the course they will be awarded a recognised qualification in electrical engineering. The students will also work for us through the Liander, Qirion and Kenter business units. This programme is the first joint venture in the area of electrical engineering between the business community and the education sector in the Arnhem-Nijmegen region.
We have furthermore seen that technical preparatory secondary vocational education institutions have stopped offering certain technical courses due to low numbers of students taking those courses. That is why, within our service area, Alliander is holding talks with institutions with the aim of relaunching those courses. For instance, in 2018 we stepped up our collaboration with Vakschool Technische installaties (VTi). As a result, ROC van Amsterdam relaunched its infra energy technology course in the autumn. Alliander offers workshops, attends open days at schools, gives tours and makes its time and materials available.
‘Electricity is the same wherever you go’
Since December 2017, Firas Khalaf has followed a training programme that leads to a senior secondary vocational education and training qualification (MBO 3) in electricity network installation and maintenance. Liander and construction group BAM help asylum status holders to find work and build a future in the Netherlands. Liander is very happy to have these highly motivated newcomers to our sector as employees, but Firas is even happier. “‘I fled Syria and came to the Netherlands four years ago,” he explained. “I had to leave my old life behind, and now I’m building a new life here.” Having worked as a fitter in Syria, Firas is now being trained as an electrician. He does not see much difference between the two. “Electricity is electricity”, he said with a smile. “It’s the same wherever you go.”
It is a morning in December. Three Liander vans drive into a dark street in Brummen. The street lights have been off for some time due to an outage. Firas and his colleagues have come to repair the fault.
The rain is pouring down. Firas enters the transformer hut, puts his hard hat on, and switches off the voltage in the network, following instructions given by his supervisor, Gert. The neighbourhood will be without electricity for the next few hours. “Safety in the workplace is extremely important in the Netherlands, and we’ve learned a lot about it on our course. There aren’t any clear safety rules in Syria, and personal protective equipment isn’t always used.” Firas sat a maths test the previous day. He only has a few more tests to go before he gains his qualification. “I found the course hard at first,” he admitted. “Things like installation diagrams and arithmetic were easy, but the language was difficult, although things improved after a few months.”
Firas and two colleagues walk past the lampposts in the rain as they work out where the fault is located. The precise location of the fault is pinpointed using special, highly accurate equipment, following which Firas can make a start on the repairs. An old lady comes out of her home. “How long’s it going to take?” she asks. She is unable to watch television or use the telephone. Firas is certain that the street lights will be working again by the end of the afternoon. “There are always people who come along and ask questions. That’s part of the job, too.” What Firas enjoys most is constructing new installations. This means working with a great deal of accuracy, which he enjoys. A smile flashes under his hood: “That, and working outside in the sunshine.”