Rebuilding and Expanding the Electrical Contractor Workforce for the Green, Digital Age

Insights_NovDec_Blueprints.gifElectrical contractors, like many industries, were impacted by the economic conditions of the past few years and had to evolve their businesses to remain competitive. As the economy gradually recovers, contractors are preparing for an increase in work after years of operating lean. As the industry continues to rebuild, contractors are finding that not only is there more demand from customers, but there is a wide range of new services that customers are considering. In order to meet this evolving demand, the industry needs to expand their skill sets and begin recruiting and preparing the new workforce with the necessary skills.

The role of the electrical contractor has changed dramatically over the past 20 years as new technologies have become prevalent and  people and businesses rely more on a wide range of electrical devices than ever before. Additionally, customers want integrated systems, rather than disparate products installed. Electrical contractors now install systems for power, control, communications, security, and safety and are responsible for integrating all of these systems to maximize the efficiency and return on investment of these combined systems.

Learning to leverage new technologies, such as building information modeling (BIM) will be critical for electrical contractors to stay competitive in the marketplace. BIM has enabled electrical contractors to become an integral part of the design phase of construction.  Through BIM technology, contractors can create computer simulations to virtually design, analyze, build, and operate buildings. Their role is a critical step in helping to eliminate problems  and obstacles before construction. Electrical contractors should develop the  necessary knowledge to take advantage of today’s market opportunity, particularly in the areas of viable solutions and consultancy skills to provide customers with recommendations on more strategic energy management. There is strong interest among electrical contractors to participate in these types of training around BIM.

Advancements in smart grid technologies and renewable energy sources have further diversified the wide range of skills that electrical contractors need to have in order to take advantage of growing opportunities in the current marketplace. The electrical infrastructure in the U.S. bears an increasingly heavy burden as the use of electronic devices skyrockets and new pressures, such as electric vehicles and renewable energy are added to the grid. As the economy gradually recovers, the Federal Government has placed a strong focus on Smart Grid technology in order to improve energy efficiency and create a more reliable electrical infrastructure to enable larger scale use of renewable energy and electric vehicles.

Electrical contractors stand to play a key role in revitalizing  the aging infrastructure, making the Smart Grid a reality and improving energy efficiency in the U.S. However, the Smart Grid’s infusion of IT with the traditional power sector will require new efforts in workforce development. The right training will be necessary in preparing contractors  to recommend and install the best overall solutions to minimize energy use, maximize energy efficiency, and in some cases, create energy from solar, wind, or other renewable sources.

In order to take on these new opportunities, contractors need to expand their skill sets through training programs. There are many training programs available to help electrical contractors develop skill sets in order to tap into new market opportunities. For instance, many local IEC chapters offer training programs to help contractors prepare for new markets. Schneider Electric also offers training through our Energy University education program, as well as through our EcoXpert training and certification program, which  prepares contractors  to advise, sell, and install a broad range of energy solutions across commercial, industry, and high-end residential applications.

As the industry continues to evolve, we must also address its growing labor shortage