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The Need for Qualified Electrical Professionals

Jan. 22, 2016
As we pointed out in last month’s “2016 Construction Forecast,” most market segments remain on an upward trajectory when it comes to construction starts.

As we pointed out in last month’s “2016 Construction Forecast,” most market segments remain on an upward trajectory when it comes to construction starts. This sets the stage for another year of steady growth, and serves as a stimulus for new job growth. But is the construction industry prepared to meet the demand for an expanding workforce in 2016? The uncertainty surrounding this issue is of great concern to many electrical design firms and electrical construction companies across the United States. Let’s set the stage with a review of some key data points from the past year. Then we’ll note some future projections of growth.

Construction firms added 45,000 workers in December, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). This marked the third straight month of large increases in construction employment. It also brings total construction employment to 6,538,000 — the highest level since January 2009. And, according to Standard & Poor’s, the United States posted 230,000 job gains per month in 2015.

Looking ahead a bit, 71% of construction companies plan to expand their payrolls in 2016, according to survey results released earlier this month by the AGC and Sage Construction and Real Estate. In addition, 70% of contractors report they are having a hard time finding either salaried or craft professionals. And 69% of respondents predict that labor conditions will remain tight, or get worse, over the next 12 months.

As we drill down a bit more in the projections, we see that the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the number of electricians in the market will grow by nearly 115,000 (20%) over the period from 2012-2022. Although the demand for electrical engineers over this same time period is not nearly as strong, the research shows that an additional 12,600 jobs (4%) will be needed in this segment too. If you factor in the large percentage of engineers and electricians who are set to retire in the next 10 to 15 years, then things really get interesting.

This is great news for electrical engineering students and apprentice electricians. They shouldn’t have any difficulty finding new jobs in the years to come. It’s also good news for the rest of you engineers and electricians in the workforce today. Pay rates are rising, and benefits packages are improving. Many companies are also investing more in training and development programs to retain their existing talent and recruit the new generation of workers.

But for those of you in management positions, it’s an entirely different story. You’re being challenged to find, recruit, train, and develop the next generation of talent. If you don’t succeed on this front, you’re putting your company’s life on the line. It’s crucial for you to stay one step ahead of this potential crisis by retaining key players on your team, cultivating future leaders among this group, and recruiting the best and brightest talent coming in to the market.

This month’s cover story, “Solving the Skilled Labor Shortage,” explores these issues and shares what a few electrical engineering firms and electrical contracting companies are doing right now to try and stay one step ahead of their competition. Freelance writer Amy Fischbach got several companies to open up their playbooks and share some key strategic elements for overcoming these obstacles and driving future growth. It’s a piece you don’t want to miss.

About the Author

eparson | Executive Editor

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