TAEBC member Qubits Energy shares workforce development challenges, opportunities

(Note: TAEBC is requesting small business members with workforce development challenges to please email Executive Director Cortney Piper to submit feedback on their unique circumstances and how to continue this conversation within the industry.)

As the world continues to embrace technology, the global workforce is having to make significant shifts to accommodate those rapid technological changes and fill those jobs of the future.

But what do companies do when they can’t find the right talent for these innovative jobs?

That’s exactly what Qubits Energy co-founder and president Ivan Ospina is facing right now in Tennessee, as energy companies in the Volunteer State are no exception to this challenge. He’s been looking to fill a few positions for his company to expand business opportunities across the country.

Qubits Energy was founded in June 2017 when Ospina and his co-founder Andrés Gómez, having both previously worked at Schneider Electric as engineers, decided to start their own small business in Tennessee as EcoXperts with Schneider Electric.

The company provides services and energy management technologies for critical power facilities such as microgrids, data centers, hospitals, airports and buildings by offering an integrated approach to critical power monitoring, energy controls, and buildings solutions. With over two decades of field experience working in power monitoring and building automation, Qubits Energy focuses on creating trusted applications for energy control and optimization, as well as buildings controls.

However, finding the right people to do this work hasn’t been easy. The recurring obstacle Ospina has run into is that electrical engineers graduating from colleges and universities today aren’t getting the vital IT and programming experience they need to work with modern energy management systems. The résumés he’s been receiving either have electrical engineering experience or IT experience, but rarely do they have both.

Ospina explained IT professionals know how to manage Windows servers, know how to set basic networks, and know how to load software into those servers. But they don’t understand how to read electrical information out of meters, bring it into a computer and make sense out of it.

Meanwhile for electrical engineers, Ospina said while they know how an energy meter works and know what power quality is, they don’t know how to setup and troubleshoot networks or communication protocols to bring information into a server. Because electrical engineers, at least the ones they’ve found here, didn’t have the IT experience to understand the programming and communication side of things.

Ospina has reached out to MTSU regarding this concern, offering to partner with the Career Center to help train students either by completing presentations or setting up classes to teach them what the industry is requiring.

“We’re looking for people who understand electrical systems but also understand the programming and IoT concepts required to do energy management, and that’s hard to find,” said Ospina.

Not all hope is lost. Ospina has been developing some new candidates, who are both mechatronics engineers. One is from MTSU and the other from Tennessee Tech. He’s been investing in intense training over the last two to three months with these candidates and traveling with them, but for small businesses like Qubits Energy, that costs a lot of money to extend training beyond a typical months-long process of getting new staff acclimated.

Ospina says in a perfect world he’d like to be able to call up a given university’s career department, tell them he’s looking for two engineers, have the university complete a basic pre-screening process, and then Qubits Energy can start interviewing candidates right away with at least the basic electrical and IoT concepts guaranteed.

“At Qubits Energy, we believe that through the use of modern technologies we can solve many community challenges, and by specifically implementing smarter electrical grids, our cities and the world could better manage our energy resources,” said Ospina. “We need multi-disciplinary engineers prepared to deploy IoT, software, connected devices and energy digitization as crucial components of a successful smart grid. Such an approach will produce a huge economic impact, ultimately benefiting our communities and protecting our planet’s natural resources by reducing its carbon emissions.”