Energy and Education: Search for Synergy

Whether energy education corresponds to the spirit of the time, which professionals the energy sector needs now and what conditions should be created for their effective training – these are the issues discussed by experts during the round table “Energy and Education: Search for Synergy” held by DiXi Group in Kyiv on 7 November.

State of energy education

“Ukraine’s energy sector is being reformed in accordance with European rules, introducing free competitive markets, transforming itself from centralised to distributed, autonomous systems. At the same time, higher education in energy does not correspond to the spirit of the time. Professionals of state-owned companies, energy, financial and antimonopoly regulators, profile ministries and government agencies are in need of complementing the current arsenal of knowledge and skills with those who would help them quickly adapt to the new reality,” Denys Nazarenko, DiXi Group Training Program Manager, outlined the situation at the beginning of the discussion.

The issue of training new professionals and retraining the current ones is hardly raised at the official level. In particular, the report for 2018 on the execution of the Action Plan for the Implementation of the Energy Strategy of Ukraine until 2035 mentions the issue of training and retraining of professionals perhaps in the context of the English language course for employees of the sectoral ministry.

According to Denys Nazarenko, the analysis of short-term and even programs for the Master’s Degree available in the educational market certifies a sufficient number of proposals for the training in technical specialities in energy. At the same time, there are practically no training products that would reveal the features of the legal and regulatory environment of the functioning of the European Union’s energy markets. In Ukraine, it is also currently impossible to study the topic of economic rules under which free energy markets operate as well as the topic of financing and investing in energy projects. Corporate universities of powerful energy holding companies like DTEK or state-owned giants like Naftogaz are likely to ensure training for their management staff, but such opportunities are usually closed for external audiences. It is noticeable that these companies often have the most resources to train their employees abroad, where there is a large choice of training programs in energy policy and economics.

“It is not enough to meet the requirements of today, it is necessary to meet the requirements of tomorrow. This is task No. 1 for both companies and educational institutions,” said Nataliia Slobodiyan, Head of Analytics and International Studies Unit at Ukrenergo NPC, during a roundtable, commenting on the gap between the academism of education and practical competencies the company is willing to see in its personnel.

What staff is missing?

In addition to the traditional speeches and answers to the questions of the guests, the participants of the roundtable participated in an interactive online chat broadcast in the room. Chat topics were included in the general discussion. In particular, it concerned the training of cross-functional professionals combining different functions in their work.

“The market and the level of current professionals do not correlate,” said Uliana Pysmenna, Energy Markets Course Lecturer at Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute. – New competencies of professionals are now taught separately from energy – separately an economist, separately an energy professional, or a person obtains two educations on their own. However, overseas, such a combination is, e.g. an energy law, energy security professional. The industry is lacking now…”

The industry and technology in it are developing very fast, which requires new professionals. “First of all, we are talking about professionals who are able to forecast the generation of electricity from RES. Theoretically, these are two professionals (meteorologist and power energy specialist). But ideally, it is one person who can combine such functions,” explained Nataliia Slobodian.

“It is necessary for the lawyers to raise the level of training for gasmen, and a gasman needs basic legal knowledge,” Andrii Borysenko, Deputy General Director for Prospective Development and Energy Saving Technology of Ukrenergoconsulting LLC, Professor of the Department for Thermal Energy Power Plants of TPP and NPP of KPI NTUU, made an example.

Uliana Pysmenna noted the lack of interaction between higher education institutions and employers as a whole, although the KPI has such experience. The expert also positively noted the training center at Zaporizhia NPP, which helps train more skilled personnel for its enterprise.

Yuliia Halustian, Gender Specialist, USAID Energy Security Project (ESP), told about an interesting tendency of overqualification especially among women. There are more than 50% of women in the energy sector and they often work at lower qualifications than their education diplomas allow. At the same time, it is a potential barrier to entry – due to a lack of jobs that would correspond to the level of education. In addition, even during training, women are offered to change the energy sector to another, more “female” one…

New approaches in education

Separately during the discussion, they discussed the “triangle of interaction” (business, science and education), which does not yet work in Ukrainian education. “There are no excuses not to change. Systemic conditions and rules of the game in education have changed and you can do anything. When something is not done, there is no desire, no will,” said Iryna Kohut, Education Consultant for MP of Ukraine Inna Sovsun.

In the speeches, it was often said that there was a lack of separate specialised courses in the education market that could ensure the receipt of additional qualification by employees. Yuliia Halustian, an expert, confirmed that during the study, the interviewed energy experts indicated, in particular, that they did not know where to pass advance training. According to Denys Nazarenko, it is important that those willing to improve their knowledge are not forced to start many years of academic training in order to obtain a secondary education.

Nataliia Slobodian believes that platforms of cooperation between universities, energy companies and experts need to be created and developed. “It is a “social glue” that will hold the cluster together and will be an incentive to create new projects. Innovative races between companies have begun, and only the companies that will give young people the space for development, cooperation (team building) and understanding that it is normal to make mistakes will win,” she noted.

Commenting on the situation when business representatives complain about the passivity of universities with regard to cooperation, Andrii Borysenko, an expert, suggested looking for the one who would encourage interaction. “It is worth talking about industry venues that the public sector can create,” he noted. In this way, successful practices can be disseminated quickly and, through education, help transform the energy sector, make it more efficient and transparent.

The roundtable was made possible with the support of the American people through the USAID Energy Sector Transparency Project implemented by DiXi Group NGO. The contents are the sole responsibility of DiXi Group and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government. The event was held in partnership with the USAID Energy Security Project (ESP) and U.S.-UKRAINE BUSINESS COUNCIL (USUBC).

Source: DiXi Group