The press writing headlines determined to get maximum value wrote, Shocking News – Electrician Shortage. Naturally the headline appeared in a bold yellow and black graphic with a lightening bolt. It almost compelled one to read the article to enhance their personal survival rate. Will you ever be able to get that wall pack, bollard light, or T5HO high bay installed? Who knows? The real summarized story is this.
In the next few years, as aging electricians begin to retire, it may be difficult to find a qualified electrician. In Minnesota, forty percent of electricians are expected to retire within the next ten years, according to Angie’s List. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that 114,700 new electricians will be required to cover the gap. Unfortunately, there may not be enough new workers entering the field to fill the need. This means a longer wait for homeowners and property managers to find quality work.
The relevant question is, what is the current state of supply and demand for electricians? Whether you’re on the supply side of the market as an electrician or electrical contractor, or if you’re on the demand side as a property manager or developer, the supply of electricians undoubtedly impacts your business. In a non-structured survey, we asked electricians across the country: “On a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being I don’t have work and 10 being I couldn’t handle another project, how busy are you?”
The results arrived quickly. It was clear that electricians had a strong opinion about the issue. Answers depended on many factors, including location, age, and experience. While many answered with a 10, or in some cases 50, others electricians answered with a 0. Summarizing the results, there were a significant amount of electricians who were extremely busy. It would seem that if you are an electrician and want to work, there is work. Depending on where you are located, if you don’t own your own electrical contracting business your income may not be what you want. Standards for electricians vary and that causes many who hire to be unable to get the skill sets they want.
Some quotes from some of the respondents are below.
“Can’t talk now too busy.”
“10. Working 6 days a week in Seattle.”
“Working 10 hours per day six days a week at $30+ per hour! Upstate New York!”
“I work full time and we always have work and OT and I have side business. I’ve had to turn down side work because I can’t handle it all. So I would say 10.”
“There is definitely a shortage of electricians. Plenty of installers that think they are electricians though. I don’t know if testing standards dropped or what but an actual electrician under 35 is becoming rare.”
“We had to hire controls electricians, took almost a year to get 6 that were licensed, and knew how to read logic. Not enough qualified electricians that can program, and hump wire. Amazing how many can not draw, or wire, a 3 wire control circuit.”
One respondent believes that interest in the industry is dissipating because many in his generation prefer to work in the tech industry instead of perform physical labor.
“The reason for that is most of the people of my generation or younger, I’m 33, they want to work in tech industry with computers, they don’t want to do physical labor, and for those who aren’t going that route can get a job pushing a broom for more than guys want to start anyone off at.”
Some respondents said there wasn’t a shortage of electricians, but a shortage of companies willing to hire them for the wages they are looking for.
“I teach and asked some of the guys in our program what they get. One kid 19 was getting 9hr another 3rd year app (21) was getting $12hr and a few others none made over $15 as an apprentice. That is a disgrace paying guys so low esp when they want to make it a career.”
“There are plenty of electricians, just not enough companies willing to pay livable wages.”
“There is a shortage of QUALIFIED electricians who will work for minimum wages!!! There is NO shortage of QUALIFIED electricians!!!”
“Honestly no sarcasm, I would like a raise or a better set up. I am blessed though to be where I am. I make 11 per hour and I get a flat rate for new services. There is no guarantee on the hours. I would really love to find a job with benefits or at least 40 hours a week. I love my career and boss, he is my best friend, but I cannot live off what I got and it leaves me looking for side work, which is hard to grab in my area because it seems people would rather hire a “handy man” than hire the guy who does this for a living. Two semesters of school and four on the job.”
For one electrician in Virginia, it seems as if there isn’t a shortage of electricians in the area. Experienced electricians have no choice but to take low-paying jobs.
“0. I think a lot has to do with location and pay scales. In southwest Virginia, a journeyman electrician with over ten years in the field is asked to take $15 an hour with no benefits for commercial work.”
But some electricians refuse to stoop to that level.
“I wouldn’t take a job for less than $25 and if they offered me less I’d laugh in their faces as I walked out.”
In the Northeast, they’re dealing with an entirely different issue; the extreme cold and snow has halted work.
“In western Mass. we are about a 4 but I have a feeling once we get some warm weather we will be back around an 8 like we were before this snow killed us.”
Looking at the statistics and projecting forward, it’s evident that interest in the field is dwindling. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), electricians will have a 23 percent growth rate between 2010 and 2020, which is higher than the national average. Running counter to demand, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers counts 27,890 active apprentices in the nation as of 2012, which is a drastic reduction from 41,552 in 2008. Independent Electrical Contractors (IES) runs programs to recruit potential electrician apprentices from youth and veterans groups.
Without proper training including apprenticeship programs, there will be a shortage of newcomers, which consequently leads to less electricians moving their way up to obtain a better license. With the shortage of electricians will come a shortage of apprentice training programs, as well as companies that can’t expand because they can’t find enough qualified hires.