Elevating the Electrical Trade

This unique pitch on the electrical trade allows those preparing to join the workforce, or those already in their post-secondary journey, the opportunity to see the trade as more than someone running conduit, installing outlets, and digging ditches. It allows them to see these steps as a foundation for what their future could be. It allows them to visualize more than simply working a job and attending a class, but rather beginning a fulfilling and exciting career. It allows those in the community to start to visualize their son/ daughter/husband/wife/sister/brother as a role model to those within their family.

Now here is how to do it! We need to explain that apprenticeship provides the best possible option for them to begin a business, even when you do not yet have the skills of the trade. The IEC apprenticeship model allows for people to earn while they learn, so our contractor members pay for our apprentices to go to classes and pay them to work in full-time employment. Their on the job training then allows them to truly understand what the day to day operations of an electrical contractor look like while learning how to do the work. What great security to know that even as a business owner, you can always strap on a tool belt and know just how to help your team!

Next, we as Chapters and a National Association must show that we will offer continuing education that helps them in all roles throughout their career. Our National curriculum is a great first step to show them how valuable IEC can be, but our Chapters and events then show them that we are there to help them grow throughout their career. We continually offer safety and field expertise classes, but we also offer classes on the financials of the construction industry, project management, multigenerational workforce management, and human resources. All of this support will make participants feel confident to step into their new enterprises and push themselves to grow into leaders of the electrical industry.

The merit shop philosophy and plethora of resources from IEC Chapters helps to demonstrate a map to business ownership for those who may not have considered a career in the trades previously. We help to show how they can educate themselves and future employees while lending support to develop them through their career journey, which is what our communities need to be able to embrace and experience.

Where are these communities? Think about the school districts within your network. How familiar are they with the work that you do? Inside of those schools, the workforce development strategy needs to be three-fold. First, we must use our strategy to let the students know that an electrical career is not only viable, but also advantageous. Then we must get that same message out to their parents. Parents need to understand how their children could thrive in this industry if that is their goal, so that they can help navigate their children toward this and feel confident about it. Finally, we need to educate the educators. This is often the most difficult group to convince. These educators have themselves gone to college and beyond to ensure their career success, so they believe that is the best path for their students. We should show them that students of all academic levels can make excellent additions to the electrical industry.

Outside of school districts, it’s very important to go into communities that have never seen what a successful business owner of a skilled trade looks like. This could be demonstrated through agencies that exist to help those in underprivileged populations, it may be with community groups that offer assistance and resources, and it may be with partners that could help to grow the workforce in your area. Working with organizations that reduce recidivism could also be a great way to set an example as a tradesperson with a business of their own. Those re-entering society need work, and learning a trade that they know could grow into their own business could be incredibly encouraging.

Showing our communities how amazing merit shop electrical and systems contractors are is a necessity for developing the workforce. We must move away from the stigma of the construction trades as a “less-than” profession. While not every person who enters the apprenticeship program will become a business owner, the point of this strategy is to show that the electrical industry provides an opportunity for all types of positions in society and that aspirational goals of being a business owner are a reality. This strategy shows that they are invested in technology and education and it shows that the apprenticeship is simply the first step in their long and rewarding career. A career that may lead to them living out the American dream!

Marissa Bankert is the Executive Director of the Central Pennsylvania Chapter of the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) located in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Marissa also serves as the Vice President of a newly chartered chapter of NAWIC (National Association of Women in Construction) and serves on various IEC National committees Contact Marissa at execdir@centralpai