Massive Shortage of Electricians Predicted for U.S.
RP News Wires
America will face a shortage of electricians in the near future, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Projections show that, by the year 2014, the national need for electrical workers will rise to more than 734,000 – a figure 78,000 beyond the number currently employed in the field.
Edwin D. Hill, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), explains that a number of factors are seen converging to produce the predicted shortfall in electrical workers, from high-tech demands swelling faster than the ranks, to the overall graying of America. “Electrical workers are aging, as is the general population,” says Hill. “The task ahead is not only to recruit and train more electricians to meet the needs of a growing industry, but to make provisions to replace current electricians who will retire.”
America is not alone in contending with a shortage of electricians. Around the world industrialized nations are grappling with shortfalls as their worker populations age. Germany, Austria, Belgium, Finland and the United Kingdom have all reported major electrician shortages – with an estimated 37,000 vacancies in the U.K. alone. Canadian analysts warn that most of that nation’s skilled electricians will retire in the next 10 years, triggering a massive shortage. In Australia, the dwindling ranks of electricians and other skilled trades has become so severe that it is now the number one constraint on business investment, according to a recent survey by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Says E. Milner Irvin, president of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), “The predicted shortfall of electricians in the U.S. won’t be just the industry’s problem. Shortages affect all businesses up and down the line, by generally driving up the cost, and driving down the quality, of any product or service.”
Although the concerns are shared, countries differ in the strategies devised to meet future workforce needs. In Finland, where 99 percent of electricians are men, efforts are aimed at attracting women to the field. In Australia, recruiters are looking overseas, encouraging skilled electricians to immigrate.
Here in America, NECA and the IBEW have taken a multifaceted approach to addressing the shortage.
“Through our National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC), we have been actively promoting our apprenticeship program to stem the manpower drop-off,” says Hill. “Right now, we have nearly 40,000 apprentices in 290 programs around the country. And, we aim to increase those numbers by committing $100 million annually to develop the electrical workforce of the future.”
What’s more, students contemplating careers can find encouragement to join the field at www.electrifyingcareers.com, an informative Web site jointly created by IBEW and NECA. At the site, visitors can browse through descriptions of nearly 60 different types of jobs available, as well as watch video testimonials from students already pursuing careers in this critical, opportunity-laden industry.
“The need for skilled workers to meet the growing electrical demands of our high-tech society is a concern that cuts across geographical borders,” says Hill. “Only by national and united efforts like the NJATC can we hope to match the growing need for years to come, to keep our future bright.”
About IBEW and NECA
Acting through their joint marketing organization – the National Labor- Management Cooperation Committee (NLMCC) of the organized electrical construction industry – NECA and IBEW together work to:
- Reach customers with accurate information about the industry; and
- Achieve better internal communication between labor and management.
With 750,000 members who work in a wide variety of fields – including construction, utilities, telecommunications and manufacturing – the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is among the largest member unions in the AFL-CIO. The IBEW was founded in 1891. For more information, visit www.ibew.org.