The electric power industry stands to lose up to one-third of its professional and craft workers in both construction and operations to retirement in the next five years, and the industry needs a comprehensive plan to replace them, claims a new study released by the National Committee on Energy Policy.

The study, released on Oct. 2, was conducted by Washington, D.C.-based NCEP’s Task Force on America’s Future Energy Jobs, which includes members from energy companies, unions, academia and construction. It estimates that, by 2020, the energy sector could need as many as 150,000 construction workers in both the professional and skilled-trades ranks. It also says many of these employees will need new training and skills as the industry moves toward a lower-carbon model.

In an appendix, San Francisco-based engineer-constructor Bechtel Group notes that estimates of total new capacity to be built between 2007 and 2030 range from 211,000 MW to 235,000 MW. Showing the need for added workers, Bechtel found it takes about 4,785 salaried technical staff and 9,575 hourly workers per 1,000 MW to build a nuclear plant and 2,560 salaried and 8,720 hourly employees per 1,000 MW of solar photovoltaic plants.

The study found major problems in recruiting young people into the sector are low high school graduation rates, lack of technical-skills training in high schools and industry-specific training for educators.

The study recommends that training needs and programs be evaluated on a regional basis and that training standards should be identified. It also calls for better career counseling and funding to help individuals seeking energy-related training and education. Finally, it urges all stakeholders to focus on revitalizing math and science skills in education.