Declining Talent Pool in Energy Sector Creates Opportunity for Recruiters

October 27, 2015 – DHR International has recruited Jay Bartlett chief executive officer of Wabash Valley Power Association. He succeeds longtime CEO Rick Coons, who retires after 36 years of service with WVPA, including 10 as CEO. Chris Guiney, a partner in DHR’s Atlanta office, led the assignment.

Mr. Bartlett was previously the president and CEO of Prairie Power Inc., an electric generation and transmission cooperative in Springfield, IL. Before that, he served as assistant general manager and chief utilities engineer of City Water, Light and Power. He currently serves on the board of directors for Alliance for Cooperative Energy Services (ACES) and the National Renewables Cooperative Organization (NRCO).

“Jay is an excellent choice to succeed Rick,” said board chairman Mike Yankauskas. “His background in both electric cooperatives and municipal utilities provides well-rounded expertise for our organization. Jay also embraces Wabash Valley Power’s priority to provide reliable and cost competitive electricity through a diversified power portfolio strategy.”

Mr. Guiney said the WVPA showed great vision in their effort to find a new CEO. “Too often, searches in the electric cooperative space are just a re-hash of the same CEO candidates who are eager to make a move. WVPA chose to employ a highly consultative, multi-dimensional approach that leveraged a deep fit assessment methodology that ensured they had an exceptional candidate pool. Thanks to this process, WVPA ultimately found a CEO who will undoubtedly lead the company into the future.”

Wabash Valley Power Association is an electric generation and transmission cooperative headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana. The company provides wholesale power to 24 distribution cooperatives in Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri that reach over 350,000 businesses and residences.

“Now more than ever, the energy, power & utilities sector is challenged with a serious talent shortage. The industry continues to suffer from an aging executive pool while the flow of bright new talent has been waning for years,” said Mr. Guiney. “The resulting decline in ‘ready now’ candidates creates a serious problem for the industry just as it is in its greatest time of complexity with the evolution of technology, aging infrastructure and depressed gas prices.”

A report issued by ManpowerGroup, ‘Strategies to Fuel the Energy Workforce,’ found that 58 percent of energy executives said they struggle to find the talent they need and 74 percent believe the problem will worsen over the next five years. Job categories identified as being in greatest demand included field workers, skilled trades, and highly educated professionals.

The study also found that the talent shortage may already be slowing growth and expansion. By some estimates, there will be three million energy sector jobs by 2020. In the utilities subsector, where half of the workforce is already over the age of 40 — 100,000 net new jobs are projected. Many of the positions will require tech-savvy candidates to keep pace with future developments.

Mr. Guiney said that “never before has the industry seen a decline in the size of the talent pool like it exists today. Despite the opportunity to deploy incredible new technology and solutions to dramatic challenges faced by the energy, power & utilities industry, organizations are failing in their ability to attract sharp young minds who see the industry as a great career path.”

As a result, good candidates for C-suite positions have been hard to come by and “only those (recruiters) who have deep experience with the industry are being trusted to conduct searches for energy companies,” said Mr. Guiney.

Mr. Guiney has conducted searches for a number of energy industry vendors, including GE Energy, ABB, Seimens, Optisense, and Vestas in addition to utility concerns like Duke Energy, Next Era, Exelon, National Grid, BP, and numerous cooperatives  and municipalities. He has also conducted assignments for technology solutions providers (i.e., software companies), including Silver Springs, Tendril, and GoodCents as well as industry consultants Accenture, McKinsey, Black & Veatch, PwC, Scott Madden, and BCG.

A number of headhunting outfits also see opportunity in the sector. In recent weeks, Extract Talent opened its doors to serve clients ranging from Fortune 100 companies to startups. The firm concentrates in the downstream sector of the oil, gas, chemicals, and catalysts industries.

In July, Diversified Search appointed Guy Sava as a managing partner and natural resources practice leader. Mr. Sava, who also was with Heidrick & Struggles, has worked with global manufacturing, chemical, materials, energy and other industrial sector clients.

Korn Ferry also bulked up its staff in the sector, naming former Heidrick & Struggles recruiter Chad Hesters as managing director of the firm’s Houston office and a senior client partner in its energy search practice.

In addition, Jim Aslaksen recently joined ZRG Partners as managing director to further build out that firm’s global industrial practice. He has over 20 years of experience in leading assignments for CEOs, board directors and other senior level executives for global industrial organizations, frequently working within the chemical and process industries markets.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media

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