Prior to the pandemic and our socially distanced world, training was already becoming more digital. However, the pandemic has made the shift to virtual educational environments move at a lightning pace, presenting both opportunities and challenges.

On the upside, more people can attend, less time is required, there are no travel-related costs, and (in some cases) you can get a closer look at energized electrical equipment. Further, for complex topics, you can take a slower, self-paced approach.

Yet, there are also challenges. Some online training misses the mark on peer-to-peer interactions, networking, and mentoring. Not to mention that it's sometimes tricky to determine which resources are credible. And, of course, an ongoing challenge is making virtual programs as (or more) effective as traditional in-person interactions and hands-on learning environments.

But, no matter how you look at it, education is imperative, and here are a few reasons why.

1. Energy delivery systems and sources are changing. The energy transition is creating a new power paradigm. Power has traditionally flowed in one direction, from where it was generated to where it was used. Now, power must flow bidirectionally between distributed energy resources (DERs), like solar panels, wind turbines, and battery storage systems. Now and in the future, electrical infrastructure needs to do much more than receive power from the grid for distribution to building loads and equipment. The proliferation of DERs requires more technical know-how.

2. Technology marches forward with advances in digitalization and cybersecurity. There’s an opportunity to solve critical power management challenges by leveraging intelligent, actionable insights from data and connected devices. Education and training are critical to keep up with these power system changes. For example, in the past few years alone, the proliferation of connected devices has spurred the development of completely new UL and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) cybersecurity assessment programs.

3. Codes and standards rule everything, and they change regularly.  No matter if you’re experienced, new to the industry, or somewhere in between, keeping up with the National Electric Code (NEC) and other industry standards is a continuous journey.

4. Workforce retirements mean that young engineers must fill positions of seniors. We see the retirements of many of our colleagues on the horizon, and our data center customers are telling us the same thing. Young engineers and electricians need in-depth knowledge about how electrical systems are constructed and operated.

5. Project schedules continue to get squeezed. Time and budget pressures make training and tools to support productivity critical. With limited time and resources, the availability of online and on-demand training is a must.