The Rising Need for Apprentices

The need for electrician apprentices is great. As our country's infrastructure needs continue to grow, so does the need for electricians. If you're an electrical contractor, then that's great news ... if you can find qualified workers to meet your area's demand.

Our country experienced a severe economic decline in the late 2000s during The Great Recession and it affected many facets of the U.S. workforce, including electricians. As the country continues to rebound, construction is increasing, which means the need for electricians is increasing too. The problem? There is still a shortage. Baby Boomers are starting to retire and, as of 2013, 60% of the electrician workforce is 45 years or older (about 25% is 55 years or older). Where are the twenty- and thirty-somethings?

FINDING PROSPECTIVE APPRENTICES

In the U.S., there are approximately 448,000 apprentices spanning a variety of trades. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), the electrical industry is expected to experience a 23% growth rate between 2010 and 2020 for electricians. This rate is higher than the national average.

In 2015, more than 52,500 students graduated from the apprenticeship system, according to the Department of Labor (DOL). With IEC’s more than 50 chapter training centers nationwide that, in a good economy, provide training to almost 10,000 apprentices annually, our students can make up nearly 20% of all apprenticeship graduates.

“IEC’s approach to having a structured pay scale allows anyone willing to work and attend school the opportunity to earn a living and advance through the trade,” said IEC Florida West Coast Chapter (IEC-FWCC) Third-Year Instructor Harry Cunningham III. “Properly trained apprentices are in demand most anywhere in the country.”

Apprenticeship programs are beneficial to both the student and the employer. The student learns a trade and the employer gains an experienced and knowledgeable worker.

“Students get to interact with other apprentices, and this allows them to pick each other’s brains,” said IEC of Greater Cincinnati Training Director Kevin Collins. “They can talk about the different types of jobs they’ve been on and the different types of things they’ve seen.”

“It’s beneficial for the employer because they don’t have to worry about training their employees on all the facets, especially the ones that they don’t see all the time,” continued Collins. “The better an employee is trained the more they will know, the better the job will run, and the more money they will make.”

ACTIVE OUTREACH

How do we increase enrollment in IEC programs to keep up with a 23% growth rate? Get prospective students excited about the industry. How do we do that? Show them how fulfilling and lucrative a career is as an electrician. We cannot expect them to find us; we must find them.

One way to reach prospective students is to attend job fairs. One outlet IEC Oklahoma City (IEC-OKC) has tapped into is the Future Farmers of America state convention. The event draws 10,000 high school students into one place, giving IEC-OKC a captive audience. The chapter recruits its newer or younger graduates to speak with prospective apprentices at these events.

“Many times, they can relate better to the individual and tell them about their success and career progression,” said IEC-OKC Executive Director Tim Yaciuk. “They are also able to provide a better description of what the average day is like.”

“Another thing former apprentices are able to do is show how they have provided for themselves and their families,” added Yaciuk. “Whether that is a benefit, such as a company truck, or the financial ability to buy themselves a truck or a house, that message is very important.”

This year, IEC-OKC tried a new approach to combat the electricia