Workforce Planning & Development
Although our annual employee turnover rate remains steadily low at approximately 6.8 percent, we anticipate that approximately 4,000 employees will retire or leave for other opportunities within the next five years. Many of these employees have institutional knowledge of the company, our operations and systems. In a robust economy where employment levels are high, the competition for talent is fierce, and we have to be more deliberate and strategic in seeking individuals with the right mix of talent and experience.
We see this level of turnover across our workforce as an important opportunity to change our approach to how we identify our true talent needs within AEP. While we will still have a significant need to hire new talent, we are re-organizing many of our traditional job roles and reassessing how we will get our work done in the future. For example, several expected job vacancies can be absorbed through new process automations and the use of other technologies. In other areas of the company, some of our existing job functions may no longer be required due to the shifting nature of our work as an energy provider.
Our digital transformation will require employees to have skillsets that merge analytics with traditional job functions. The need for analytics integration is occurring everywhere, from our facility maintenance staff and our line workers to our customer service teams. Sometimes, a new technology simply requires a quick update of existing equipment. Other times, it requires a more thorough examination of the staffing capabilities needed to manage new equipment, new processes or new software. Developing or acquiring these new skillsets is critical to becoming the energy company of the future.
We must also look to new sources of talent to meet our future demands. Many of the skill sets we will require may not exist in today’s job market, so we must be proactive in creating a talent pool that meets our specific business needs. One example is our work with the Business Roundtable (BRT), the Ohio BRT, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and universities and community colleges in Ohio to develop a reskilling of the workforce plan. Together we are working to develop educational programs to provide students, as well as current and future AEP employees, with the tools to transition into these new skillsets.
AEP also has training alliances with several community colleges, universities and vocational and technical schools across our 11-state service territory. We work with these institutions to develop academic programs that will prepare employees for upward mobility opportunities and to attract external job seekers interested in careers in our industry. Our education partners include The Ohio State University, Columbus State Community College, Mid-East Career & Technical Center, Texas State Technical College, Morgan State University, Tennessee State University and Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology, among many others. In 2018, AEP supported more than 1,100 employees with education reimbursement.
We are also committed to equipping our employees with job readiness as we retire coal plants. Our Conesville Plant, located in Coshocton, Ohio, will retire two units in 2019 and the remaining unit in 2020. Approximately 165 employees will be impacted; some will continue to work at AEP, while others will be challenged with finding new jobs. To help support their search, AEP partnered with Coshocton County Job and Family Services to provide a series of job readiness programs and resources. Through the Ohio Means Jobs program, displaced employees will have access to workforce trainers and career counselors to prepare them for their next career move.
Developing our Employees
Transformational change requires a more progressive and thoughtful approach in how we train, develop and retain our employees. As the nature of our work changes, so do the skillsets, experience required, and knowledge that are necessary to remain competitive. Our goal is to prepare our company and workforce for those changes so that we are aligned with our future strategy. AEP provides a broad range of training and assistance that supports lifelong learning and transition development. This is especially important as we move toward a more digital future that requires a more flexible, innovative and diverse workforce.
We have robust processes to achieve this, including ongoing performance coaching, operational skills training, resources to support our commitment to environment, safety and health, job progression training, tuition assistance and other forms of training that help employees improve their skills and become better leaders. In 2018, AEP employees completed just over 1 million hours of training in programs for which we track participation.
AEP provides development opportunities for employees at every level, whether through informal professional development opportunities or formal targeted development programs. Several of AEP’s Employee Resource Groups and utility professional groups, such as Women’s International Network of Utility Professionals (WiNUP), sponsor programs and events that focus on employee education, career advancement, and personal and professional development.
In 2018, we launched Transmission University (TU), a development initiative that seeks to transform learning within the organization. This initiative equips Transmission employees and contractors with self-guided learning opportunities that empower them to take control of their professional development.