This spring, first-year IEC Apprentices will be embarking on a career in a profession that is unlike so many others. They wisely chose a career in the electrical field where the electrical wiring, troubleshooting, and equipment installations they will perform every day will never be outsourced. A career where new technology does not threaten to eliminate their job, it serves to enhance it.
Reflecting on the IEC Apprentices that will be graduating this year, my thoughts turn to how many more apprentices are needed right now and in the decades to come.
The need to build a larger base of recruits into the electrical industry is clearly evident. We must work to convince millennials, and in many cases their parents and guidance counselors, that the electrical industry is a desirable career choice. A severe shortage of trained electricians at every level has been increasing exponentially year after year. Thomas Edison once said, “Opportunity is missed by many people because it is dressed in overalls and it looks like work.”
The electrical industry has offered superior opportunities for skilled workers since 1879, when Thomas Edison, in the first public demonstration of his incandescent lightbulb, illuminated a street in the Menlo Park section of New Jersey.
When we speak of the electrical industry we are speaking of all of us, beginning with our apprentices. The truth is, nearly everyone’s career in the electrical industry begins with apprenticeship. Many apprentices will go through a formal training program administered by IEC. The talent assembled on our IEC A&T Committee, along with our talented IEC National staff, has produced a world class Apprentice Curriculum. The curriculum was reviewed last year by the American Council on Education (ACE) and was awarded 40 ACE college credits, worth an average of $35,000.
Even the best curriculum must make its way to the classroom. Within IEC, it is our local chapters that facilitate our IEC apprentice training. Our chapters have created state-of-the-art training facilities through equipment grants provided by our IEC National Partners and awarded through the IEC Foundation. Our fantastic chapter instructors teaching our future journeymen and women are the very best in the industry, allowing us to produce the best electricians today.
Although the number of new apprentices enrolling into formal training programs across the country has been dwindling, enrollment in IEC apprentice training programs have experienced a steady increase in recent years. However, the hard truth is that even with increased enrollment we still need more apprentices. The increased enrollment we are currently seeing can help fill an immediate need to complete current ongoing projects, but it will take thousands of more apprentices in the coming years to replace the aging workforce that will be retiring over the next 10+ years.
In Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and New Hampshire, more than 60 percent of the skilled-trades labor force is 45 or older. This trend extends across the rest of the country, as well.
Merit shop electrical contractors perform over 80% of the electrical work across the country. Unless we take the shortage of skilled labor seriously, the ability for contractors to grow their companies will be negatively affected. This will lead to a sharp reduction in market share. We must all do our part to replenish the workforce to meet the growing labor needs within our industry.
To that end, the IEC Board of Directors voted to make an investment to create the initial tools necessary to attract the next generation of electricians. The final product was unveiled at the 2016 National Policy Conference in Washington, D.C.
Our IEC National staff completed what was essentially a 6-month project in a little more than 10 weeks. I encourage you to view the campaign website and videos at www.myelectriccareer.com.
The results are so impressive that the IEC Board of Directors unanimously voted to provide additional funding to take the next step in marketing the materials created. In the coming months, the marketing campaign will be heard and viewed on Pandora and Facebook in multiple IEC chapter markets across the country, officially launching IEC’s campaign to attract new apprentices into IEC chapter apprentice programs.
I look forward to witnessing the continued and expanded growth of the IEC Apprenticeship Program.
Joseph Hovanec Jr. is IEC’s 2016 National President. As the principal elected officer of the association, Hovanec serves as the National Chair to the Board of Directors, House of Delegates, and Executive Committee. Hovanec is the president of Advanced Electric Design & Service in Rahway, New Jersey. With a career that spans over 35 years in the electrical industry, Hovanec is extremely knowledgeable on where we have been and the direction we need to go.