Getting the job done

The Netherlands continued to have an acute shortage of experienced technicians in 2019. Thanks to the economic growth and the acceleration of the energy transition, our work has increased dramatically and with this the number of vacancies and the high vacancies per candidate ratio. Where, at the start of 2017, this was 1 to 7, it had become 1 to 20 at the start of 2018; by September 2019 the figure had climbed to 1 to 39, meaning a service technician can choose from among 39 job openings. Predictions for the coming years also point to significant demand in terms of capacity. After the service technician, the bottleneck is shifting more and more towards the site supervisor, civil engineer, and project manager, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to fill these positions. The pool of technicians has been exhausted and the number of people completing their training and entering the trade is too low to meet the demand. We focus on people with a profile that includes practical and theoretical education and a technical background, but we also approach candidates who are willing to retrain. Though we do everything we can to recruit and train new employees, we know that these efforts are not enough to see that all the work in our work package gets done. 

It does not end with finding the right personnel either: virtually all new recruits need to be trained by an experienced technician. In 2019, we were already stretched to the limit in terms of training resources and opportunities. Since last year, we have had three ‘practice fields’ – locations where the power grid and various installations have been recreated to present trainees with real-life situations – in operation. At these locations in Duiven, Haarlem, and Leeuwarden, a single student supervisor can instruct a whole group of service-engineers-in-training at once. This is a nice solution given our need to properly train a lot of new employees as quickly as possible.

Getting young people interested in technology

In Noord-Holland, Friesland and Gelderland, our technical college Alliander Technische Bedrijfsschool is involved in the Sterk Technisch Onderwijs (Strong Technical Education) plans. The ‘co-financing’ that the technical college offers to educational institutions is not in money, but rather in kind: the doors at the locations in Haarlem, Duiven and Leeuwarden are open to the schools there. From next year, students can have part of their studies, shadowing placements, excursions, guest lessons, and open days arranged together with the technical college. This initiative works both ways: the schools do not have to make major investments in expensive installations, and Alliander can attract young people, introducing them to work in network management and infrastructure technology.

In November Alliander Technische Bedrijfsschool was present at a technology event in Friesland attended by hundreds of youngsters aged 10 to 16 (and their parents), who could see first-hand the various facets of the technical trades. At the Alliander stand, the young visitors could view 360-degree videos wearing VR glasses, learn about the principles of electrical engineering (demonstrated using a sausage-making machine), and see various cables and sleeves. When works were being carried out in Leeuwarden, dozens of electrical and installation engineering students and teachers from a nearby college were invited to come and have a look.