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Saving Time, Saving Money, Getting the Talent They Need

Using the Talent Pipeline Management® (TPM) approach to enhance their workforce strategy and solve the challenges facing their industry, Consumers Energy is now accurately projecting demand, identifying in-demand competencies, finding trusted sources of talent, and developing strong partnerships with preferred talent providers.

Investing in Talent for Tomorrow

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We had a shortage of talent, which not only affected our company, but it affected our customers and the communities we serve. We wanted to do everything we could to ensure a bright future for our home state.

out of 4,000

50 were qualified candidates

The Challenge

In a 2015 search to hire 100 skilled trade workers – specifically in-demand electric line workers and gas line workers – Consumers Energy received 4,000 applications. After a screening process, 50 applicants, just 1% of the applications received, were deemed “qualified” for these available jobs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2026, out of the top 20 fastest growing occupations, the top two spots belong to the energy sector. With almost 50% of the Consumers Energy skilled trade workforce eligible for retirement in the next three years, they needed an aggressive talent development strategy.

The Solution

Consumers Energy, working with the Michigan Energy Workforce Development Consortium (MEWDC), used the TPM approach to implement a new workforce strategy for their electric line and gas line workers. Using this data-driven approach they are able to successfully project demand, identify in-demand competencies, and map trusted sources of talent for these jobs. Much of that success is due to expanded and improved partnerships with training partners who were willing to adapt and receive constructive input from employers.

Better armed with their own data on critical jobs, Consumers Energy has been able to provide more relevant training facilities, increase face time with students, and provide in-depth input on course curricula for those career paths—including identifying and eliminating outdated training practices.

What is Talent Pipeline Management (TPM)?

The U.S. Chamber Foundation’s TPM initiative is a demand-driven, employer-led approach to close the skills gap that builds pipelines of talent aligned to dynamic business needs. This strategy is putting the business community in the driver’s seat as the end-customer of the education system.

TPM is a strategy developed to proactively meet the needs of today’s changing business environment. The in-person TPM Academy is a training to help workforce development leaders from across the country learn the TPM approach, how to harness their data to define their talent demands, and drive partnerships with education and training providers based on that need.

Changing the Game

Using the TPM approach, Consumers Energy conducted a refresh of their existing training programs to better align classroom to career.

This modern strategy has enabled them to meet the new hire needs of their workforce for critical functions, with a 98 percent retention rate, while increasing student enrollment in related programs at local education institutions.

Because employees come in with the skills they need to do the job on day one, Consumers Energy is seeing onboarding cost savings to the tune of $30,000 per hire.

98% retention

of school to work hires through a four-year apprenticeship

$30,000 in savings

per hire in onboarding remediation costs

$2.5 Million

in funding specifically for TPM and other industry-led collaborative workforce approaches

A Key Partnership

Consumers Energy heavily relied upon their partnership with the Michigan Energy Workforce Development Consortium (MEWDC). Since 2008, DTE Energy, Consumers Energy, utility municipalities and co-ops, and other relevant partners have worked together to create the MEWDC with an aim to develop solutions to looming skilled worker shortages in Michigan’s energy utility industry. Their goal is to identify and act on current and future workforce issues that are crucial to building and sustaining Michigan’s energy industry.

Areas of Impact

Workforce development is never over. TPM is an end-to-end approach that often reveals untapped opportunity. Here are two that Consumers Energy capitalized on.

Through the TPM process, Consumers identified opportunities for improvements to their existing registered apprenticeship program for electric line workers. This six-month program at local community colleges is followed by a 10-week program onsite at Consumers Energy prior to onboarding.

Armed with their data and new, improved relationships with their training provider partners, these training programs are now the sole source of entry-level electric line workers for the Consumers Energy workforce.

For gas line workers, the TPM process revealed that 45 percent of the skills new hires needed were in direct alignment with military roles, and that nearly 30 percent of the current gas line workforce was veterans. As a result, Consumers Energy partnered with Power for America to develop a veteran-specific training program.

Now, the skills most prioritized by Consumers Energy better align with what is taught in the pre-employment programming. Consumers has hired more than 100 people from each of these refreshed programs in the last three years, providing a direct pipeline of appropriately skilled talent for critical jobs.

What are the results? Is this repeatable?

In four years, Consumers Energy, using the TPM approach, boasts a 98% retention rate for hires brought in through their established talent pipelines, minimal remediation or additional training required on their first day leading to a huge cost savings, and the comfort of knowing that they have a direct pipeline arrangement now, so that as jobs are available, there is a qualified pool of talent ready to go.

Due to their own positive experiences with the TPM approach, Consumers wanted to support others in their state facing similar workforce challenges. To do this, they hosted two TPM Academies for economic developers, workforce development leaders, chambers of commerce, and business associations from across the state so they could learn to build sustainable, scalable talent pipelines for their respective industries.

TPM is an outgrowth of the supply chain management business model where communities build regional leadership coalitions among business, education, and workforce to identify partnerships that produce sustainable talent pipelines. Employers are in the driver’s seat of these partnerships so that the resulting workforce solutions are truly driven by demand. With a dedicated champion like Consumers Energy moving it forward and the right partnerships in place, it’s an infinitely repeatable model.

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