Ellen Parson

New Solutions to Old Problems

March 18, 2024
Creative ideas to bridge the skilled worker shortage gap in the construction industry

Depending on which source you’re looking at, the country’s skilled labor shortage numbers change slightly — but they’re always staggering, at least in my mind. To offset the ongoing workforce shortage, the construction industry will need to recruit an “estimated 501,000 additional workers on top of the normal pace of hiring in 2024 to meet the demand for labor,” according to a proprietary model developed by Associated Builders and Contractors. In 2025, the organization predicts the industry will need to attract nearly 454,000 new workers to meet demand. Not surprisingly, employment of electricians, a critical component in this shortfall, is projected to grow 6% from 2022 to 2023 — faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So any way you slice it, what we have is a huge gap — a gap that’s often hard to envision a viable solution for. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over more than 20 years of covering the electrical construction & maintenance industry, it is that electrical professionals are passionate, creative, and persistent people. As the vacancies get larger and the stakes get higher, industry veterans continue to seek out new solutions to old problems. 

Harold De Loach, a master electrician, electrical trainer/instructor, and founder/director of The Academy of Industrial Arts in Philadelphia, is one of those people. Contributing training articles to EC&M print, online, and our E-Train e-newsletter for the last several years, Harold is on a mission to invigorate the electrical profession, employing creative ways to recruit, train, and retain the next generation of electricians. His content, geared toward electrical apprentices, has been so popular with our audience that we decided to release a series of e-books featuring Harold’s most engaging articles. The first installment — offering tips and best practices for anyone interested in entering the electrical industry — is now available for a free download. Look for more “apprentice’s guide to…” e-books coming this year on electrical calculations, conduit and cable basics, installation and wiring, and interesting niche applications.

Another electrical industry visionary is Mike Greenawalt, Rosendin Electric’s CEO Emeritus. I recently had the privilege of sitting down with Mike on my “EC&M On Air” podcast to discuss the new ground-breaking partnership he’s established between Rosendin and Arizona state educators to create a pre-apprenticeship program for Grand Canyon University (GCU). This is a fascinating discussion in which Mike, who tells his personal story of going from a C student to apprenticeship to running a $3-billion electrical contracting company, joins Edward Cota with Arizona’s Department of Education and chief strategy officer/chairman of the Arizona Education Economic Commission to explain how this innovative partnership took shape, what model the program follows, and why this seemingly unconventional approach is seeing such great success. Catch Part 1 of the podcast, and look for Part 2 next month. This training program is a perfect example of how thinking outside the box leads to innovative solutions that are changing the narrative of how students (and their parents) view the skilled trades. As they emphasize in the podcast, “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” Listen to the full episode for all of the details.

Due to the ongoing challenges surrounding doing more with less in the construction industry, this issue is dedicated to the theme of “workforce management.” Check out the cover story by Dr. Heather Moore and Dr. Perry Daneshgari of MCA, Inc. on “Combating Construction’s Biggest Time-Wasters” in which they explain how to define, measure, and improve productivity on electrical job sites. Wesco International’s Sean Nacey lays out how prefab solutions boost labor productivity through best practices. Offering insight into construction labor productivity trends, FMI’s latest study offers an inside look at why contractors who establish sound operating processes perform better than their peers. And finally, Kenny Ingram of IFS breaks down why restructuring the construction industry’s productivity problem is beyond a labor issue. All of these articles demonstrate fresh perspectives on solving the industry’s productivity puzzle, ultimately making electrical professionals more efficient and profitable.

About the Author

Ellen Parson | Editor-in-Chief - EC&M

Ellen Parson is the Editor-in-Chief for EC&M. She has a journalism degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She's been a business-to-business writer and editor for more than 25 years, most of which have been covering the construction and electrical industries. Contact her at [email protected].

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