Finding the Future Hydropower Workforce – Applications Close May 8

Finding the Future Hydropower Workforce – Applications Close May 8

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Hydropower’s role in a carbon pollution-free future is critical, and so are the people who will make it possible.

With a quarter of the active hydropower workforce eligible for retirement now or within the next decade, the issue of replacing these retirees with a new workforce represents a significant challenge.

Research performed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) shows that college-aged students are highly interested in renewable energy, but they are, for the most part, unaware of hydropower job opportunities. Less than 10% of college students are prepared for careers in the field.

Enter the new Hydropower Collegiate Competition which has officially launched. Student teams apply to compete with applications closing May 8. Upon selection, the teams will embark on a year of activities and contests. Winning teams will be announced in spring 2023 at the National Hydropower Association’s Waterpower Week in Washington event.


Understanding the employment hurdles facing the hydropower industry, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office and National Renewable Energy Laboratory, in partnership with the Hydropower Foundation, created the Hydropower Collegiate Competition (HCC).

The teams selected to compete will be asked to design concepts to solve hydropower challenges, participate in contests, produce several deliverables throughout the year to help promote their efforts, attend monthly all-team calls to hear updates from competition organizers and industry guest speakers, participate in several educational and industry-focused webinars, and present their work at the 2023 Waterpower Week in Washington event, owned and organized by NHA.

To learn more about the HCC, click here.

The competition is modeled off of the DOE’s Marine Energy Collegiate Competition (MECC). In 2019, DOE launched the marine energy competition, which is for undergraduate and graduate students, and has since become an annual event. Competing teams are tasked with developing market-researched business plans and conceptual technical designs of systems addressing the needs of the blue economy.

Since its founding, over 480 college students on 48 teams from 47 different academic institutions have taken part in the Marine Energy Collegiate Competition.


“Engaging college students in the industry through this new Hydropower Collegiate Competition will help to develop the highly skilled professionals that will be needed for the future,” says Timothy Oakes, vice president of Power & Energy at Kleinschmidt and a member of the steering committee for the competition. “Kleinschmidt invests heavily in training hydro professionals, but the demand is strong and growing stronger. From renovating and modernizing older developments to designing and permitting new hydropower and pumped storage projects, there are numerous opportunities in this growing renewable energy industry.”

John Etzel, deputy director of the Hydroelectric Design Center for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, agrees: “We see the competition as a great vehicle to introduce college-level professionals to the hydropower industry and engage in some of the most current challenges the industry is facing.” Etzel is a member of the steering committee for the Hydropower Collegiate Competition.

“Through this new competition, students will learn more about hydropower’s long history of success; how hydropower can offer large-scale energy storage; what it is like to work in the industry; and much more!” says Brandon Harmer P.E., manager of Hydraulic Engineering for Voith Hydro and a competition steering committee member. “This unique, hands-on experience will not only allow interdisciplinary teams of students to make new connections, but gives the industry the opportunity to connect with innovative, forward-thinking students who have a passion for clean, renewable energy.”

The bottom line? The Hydropower Collegiate Competition will provide an important opportunity to  nurture the future hydropower workforce. The students on the teams who will be involved in the competition are, essentially, the future of our industry.


Now that the competition is established, NHA asks each person reading this article to take a few minutes to reach out to the college, university, and/or trade school you attended to ensure professors and student relations staff know about the competition.

Additionally, NHA recommends elevating the news about the launching of the new competition via Linkedin, Facebook, and/or Twitter.

“We all need to do our part in driving a new generation of students toward rewarding careers in the waterpower industry,” says Malcolm Woolf, president and CEO of NHA. “The new Hydropower Collegiate Competition and the existing Marine Energy Collegiate Competition are great avenues to get students interested in and learning about our industry.”