Combating the Labor Shortage

DeanKredit.jpgAs summer begins, so does the bulk of the workload for the majority of construction companies. Along with the many projects that run throughout the year, schools are racing to complete projects in a matter of months. In the housing market, low interest rates and consumer confidence have boosted the new home sales in many areas across the country creating a strong comeback, so finding additional skilled manpower has become the challenge many of us are already facing.

Throughout the downturn of the economy, some of the experienced workforce left the sector to find work in other areas, which is not unique to the electrical profession. Individuals who have chosen to leave the industry have left a void when the demand returned resulting in a shortage of workers.

What many of us are finding is the pool of qualified workforce is quickly dwindling. An article featured in USA Today highlighted parts of the country that have comeback and those that are expected to comeback in the next few years. The need for manpower is already evident in those areas and some have already depleted the available current workforce. We must move forward and look for ways to build the future of the electrical industry.

The IEC National Apprenticeship & Training Committee has been continually updating and adding modules to the IEC Apprenticeship Program to constantly evolve the way we train the next generation. Our new partnership with American Technical Publishers (ATP) is allowing us to build our educational programs to fully accommodate the chapters’ training needs creating improved value to our contractor members. Distance learning options and electronic delivery methods are just a few examples of the upcoming changes. Additionally, we recently launched the IEC Instructor Training and Certification Program to help our current and new instructors deliver our programs to their fullest potential. I am proud to report that more than 100 instructors have already completed Level I of this course.

Beyond providing our apprentices with a superior training, we must communicate the many advantages of a career in the electrical field. Again this year, IEC members and staff attended the SkillsUSA Competition in Kansas City, Missouri, and promoted the benefits of a career in the skilled trades. We spoke with young people and school counselors to make them aware of the many options available through IEC and its network of chapters.

This year we will be finalizing our three year IEC National strategic plan. Part of this plan includes using our national committees to develop workforce recruitment, promoting our industry and association to assist our contractor members in finding the labor force needed for the future.

IEC Rocky Mountain has gone a step further to also assist their associate members in recruitment by holding a job fair for them, as they share the same challenges in recruiting and rebuilding their workforce. It’s exciting to see this chapter take the initiative to do everything in their power to serve their members.

The shared manpower program has been a vital tool that many chapters use to share their workforce as a way to complete projects when hiring new employees is not an option. IEC Texas Gulf Coast has one of the most efficient and effective manpower sharing programs in the country. The program was challenged by the local NLRB 19 years ago and a decision was just recently reached that this program is legal and will continue to help IEC members in the Houston area.

These are just a few ways IEC is doing its part to rebuild our workforce. Although there are many predictions that say a major skilled labor shortage is inevitable, we will continue to do everything possible to prevent this problem and alleviate its strain on electrical contractors.

Dean Kredit is IEC’s 2013 National President. As the principal elected officer of the association, Kredit serves as chair to the Board of