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UNI receives six-figure grant for utility workforce research

7 months ago
UNIBusiness Editor
Iowa utility employee on the job

The University of Northern Iowa was awarded more than $129,000 via the Iowa Energy Center board’s grant program to conduct workforce assessment and strategic planning for utility companies throughout the state. UNIBusiness’ Strategic Marketing Services (SMS) and Institute for Decision Making (IDM) will lead the project.

The $129,293 grant is a portion of the $2.6 million provided to a variety of institutions to conduct research projects focused on keeping Iowa at the forefront of energy innovation. All funds come from Iowa ratepayers, customers who pay for an electric or natural gas service through a local utility.

“Both SMS and IDM have ample experience working with both public and municipal utilities,” said Christy Ryken, director of SMS. “A project like this allows our programs to apply that knowledge and experience to help both our state’s citizens and utilities through our research.”

SMS and IDM will aim to understand utility workforce challenges and discuss solutions that will help Iowa utilities maintain and grow their workforce. The project will be broken into three phases:

  1. Phase I includes an online survey among all Iowa utilities to determine the current state of the utility workforce in Iowa, including challenges, pain points and potential solutions.
  2. Phase II includes focus groups and in-depth interviews to dig deeper into Phase I key learnings.
  3. Phase III is the development of a Workforce Strategy Plan among Iowa utilities and stakeholders to impact the current workforce and future talent pipeline.

The research and planning efforts from this project will be a boon for both residential and commercial ratepayers throughout the state. Well-trained and staffed utilities are better positioned to maintain services and reliability. Additionally, stronger utilities help local businesses expand and attract new enterprises, keeping Iowa poised for future growth.

SMS has extensive experience providing research to Iowa utilities and related organizations, including conducting customer satisfaction surveys for municipal utilities and a membership survey for the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities (IAMU). Both SMS and IDM have worked with the Business Expansion and Strategic Trends (BEST) committee for the past three years to develop the Annual Statewide Targeted Company Report. IDM also has extensive experience in conducting strategic planning for all types of organizations.   


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