Developing up-to-date Skill Standards for Washington's energy industry

In 2006, the energy industry was growing rapidly. New technology and investment in wind, hydroelectric, and other clean energy sources was rising. At the request of its advisory board of utility partners, the Pacific Northwest Center of Excellence for Clean Energy convened a two-day focus group meeting to update skill standards for Washington’s energy industry.

Skill Standards are the industry-defined skills, knowledge and abilities required for individuals to succeed in the workplace. The standards specify what students, job seekers and current employees must know and be able to do within a particular industry and occupation, including the required levels of performance. Skill standards are defined through focus groups of employees who actually work in the occupations being studied.

The focus groups consisted of 12 front-line employees who represented similar kinds of occupations, from many different companies and energy sectors. The group also contained managers and other knowledgeable persons with extensive, current knowledge about those occupations. In addition to the employee focus groups, written surveys supplemented the data collection from industry about foundation skills required for these occupations.

Without input and support from industry, skill standards would not accurately reflect the training and knowledge that workers need to be productive employees.

The resulting skill standards are still in use today, helping colleges, high schools and training organizations to make sure that their programs are up-to-date, to attract students to careers in the industry, and to ensure that students and workers get high quality training. Employers and Labor use the results to better understand the foundational skills workers need to do their jobs effectively, to design or improve training programs, and as a precursor to existing programs like apprenticeship.