Meet Emma, our Board member taking the energy transition to Southern Sweden

As part of a new series for our newsletter, where we interview our Board members who are all practicing electrical contractors, today we turn to our Board member Emma Elheim Karlsson, coming to us from our Swedish member association Installatörsföretagen.

Hi Emma, it’s great we can finally hear from you! Let’s start by the basics, can you tell us more about who you are, and what brought you to this business?

I’m Emma from Sweden and I am the CEO of an electrical contracting company called Hallabro Elektriska, which has been family-run since my grand-father started it in 1948.

I have to say I did not initially train to be in electrical contracting, in fact I started out as a language teacher! But a few years ago, while I was on maternity leave from my teaching job, I started helping my uncle and dad who were running the company at the time because I was just too bored to sit at home with nothing to do. But as I went back to teaching, I kept working with my dad. At some point, he said I could not keep doing both and I would have to make a choice between teaching and working with him. Unsurprisingly, I chose him!

What a story! So, what are your responsibilities as a CEO?

Well, you have to know how to do a bit of everything. This entails strategic planning, handling contracts as well as lots of human resources tasks. As mentioned, I’m no electrician so I leave electrical installations to the pros, but I have to make sure everything is working smoothly and that everyone is happy, whether it’s our clients or employees. We have about 90 employees now, so it’s important that everyone feels included and enjoys working for us. I spend a significant amount of time with our staff supervisors to make sure that our workers enjoy their work, get along and that well-being remains a top priority. This is also very important for productivity.

But I also keep the door open for feedback and constructive criticism and strive to foster team spirit. Our professionals are our core business and my grandfather always said they are our gold, so we want to nurture this aspect of our company. Plus, I really enjoy working on HR and skills!

And can you tell me more about what your company does more precisely? Any specific trends?

We work mainly in the south of Sweden across 6 locations and we are a fairly traditional electrical contracting company in the sense that we do all kinds of electrical installations, in residential and commercial buildings as well as industry. This ranges from the more basic wiring to more advanced or modern installations. The main trend in our business is definitely the energy transition. This creates lots of demand for electrical work in general but also brings new demand for specific clean technologies.

I am happy that our installers are able to handle all the main installations that make our world a better place! From solar PV, to heat pumps, or EV charging we are keeping up with the pace of demand for clean energy installations. We even have small-scale windmills on offer for more demanding customers. On top of that, we are also called upon to carry out parallel tasks to pure installation. Automation and programming are becoming increasingly common and requested by our clients, especially in the industrial or commercial sectors. It’s important that we have the expertise to integrate all those technologies to reach the best levels of energy efficiency. Whether it’s for EV charging, PV, or heat pumps, automation is key for optimisation and efficiency.

The energy transition is making our sector very lively and fascinating. Our employees should be really proud of what they are doing, they play a key role in reaching our climate target. One customer even told our employees their work is just as important as a doctor’s!

Energy transition is great but that must be putting a lot of pressure on the workforce. Is that the case and if so, what can you do about it?

Yes, that is the defining challenge for my company and for our sector. The energy transition is a fantastic opportunity for electrical contractors, who will provide the workforce that will keep our lives going in an electrified world, but also for the economy because lots of jobs can be created in our sector. In Sweden, we are already missing about 28.000 installers (heating and plumbing included) at the moment. We always have unfilled vacancies in my company and if more people were on the job market, we would have a larger team!

The first way we can try to overcome this is by hiring apprentices. I often go to schools to talk about our sector and company to get them excited about electrical careers. It’s important that we are attractive to have the most students applying for apprenticeships. This is a great way to recruit new talent, but we unfortunately can’t take on an infinite number as it also takes time and resources to train and coach them. While they come with the basic knowledge about electrical installations from school, they still have some way to go before being able to install a PV system or automating heat pump systems. With the fast-paced innovation in clean tech, our current employees also have to train and upskill to handle the latest devices (this is especially true for automation) and to keep up on their health and safety training.

Another important aspect that can also contribute to alleviating workforce shortages is focusing on gender diversity and increasing the share of women. Our sector is clearly lacking this and it’s ridiculous that we can only attract one half of the population when trying to increase our workforce. When I go to schools or to sectorial events, I hope I can show that girls and women have their place in leadership roles. It’s about time to break misconceptions and understand that women are just as able in industries traditionally considered manly. On top of increasing the personnel available, it good to have more gender balance in any company. It improves decision making and well-being at work. And this holds true for all kinds of diversity, whether it’s gender, culture, age or else.

I really hope we can make my difference in making my company but also my sector more diverse and inclusive!

Finally, I am curious about what attracted you to EuropeOn and what you enjoy about being on our board?

I enjoy meeting and networking with my peers from across Europe as a great opportunity to get insight on how to improve the attractiveness of my company and to know that I am taking it in the right direction. 

But what I really like is to speak on behalf of my sector and get the word out to policymakers. I enjoy bringing my knowledge gained on the ground to the political spheres and hopefully enact change for the whole electrical contracting industry.

It’s important to show that we have a key role in the energy transition, and we need to use our influence to show policymakers that we should work together to reach climate goals!