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Home | SAN ANTONIO | Focus | FOCUS - Electrical Industry - Gaining strength through adversity

FOCUS - Electrical Industry - Gaining strength through adversity

image David W. Johnson, Executive Director, CentTex Chapter IEC, Austin, TX

SAN ANTONIO - The current outlook for the electrical industry is strong. The number of construction projects in Texas has been steadily rising for both large and small companies over the past several years.






    With industrial, multiuse and commercial construction thriving and residential housing developing, the architects, engineers, general and electrical contractors are all experiencing significant growth and the need for qualified, skilled workers has never been greater. 
    Our contractors in Texas are encountering a serious challenge—the workload demand has surpassed the trained workforce supply. 

Why is there a shortage?

    There are basically three reasons for the lack of trained electrical workers we are currently experiencing.  Each year more and more established workers are reaching the age of retirement.  Due to the social pressure to attend a college or university, less high school graduates are pursuing jobs in the electrical construction trade. Additionally, a significant number of experienced workers left the industry during the years of economic recession to seek a different career. The resulting loss of talented tradesmen and not replenishing the workforce adequately with trained electricians has led us to where we are today.  

When did it become apparent that the electrical industry was headed into a bad situation with a shortage of qualified electricians?

    In late 2010 the economy still had fewer jobs than it did before the recession started. This blended with an exceptionally sluggish recovery and fewer construction projects, the demand for electricians leveled.
    In 2014 construction started to turn around and amid government fostering a business friendly environment in Texas, development has flourished!  

What is being done by the industry to help resolve this issue?
    On June 15, 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order, expanding Apprenticeship programs that make sense. “In today’s rapidly changing economy, it is more important than ever to prepare workers to fill both existing and newly created jobs and to prepare workers for the jobs of the future.  Many colleges and universities fail to help students graduate with the skills necessary to secure highly sought after, meaningful occupations.  Far too many individuals find themselves with a tidal wave of student debt and navigating the sea of employment possibilities without a compass.
    “Expanding apprenticeships and workforce development programs will help address these issues, enabling more Americans to obtain relevant skills leading to higher paying jobs.  Apprenticeships provide paid, relevant workplace experiences and opportunities to develop skills that are valued by employers. 
    “Additionally, construction trades training programs provide affordable paths to steady work and ultimately, careers driven by hard work, honesty and integrity demonstrated by the worker”. [Excerpts from the EO] visit https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/executive-orders for more information.
    The Independent Electrical Contractors Association (IEC) offers a tremendously successful Electrical Apprenticeship Program, registered with the U.S. Department of Labor, for individuals who are interested in joining the electrical industry.  The ‘earn while you learn’ model is appealing and motivating for men and women to acquire full-time employment alongside professional education.

At the high school level, how are they looking at trade schools now versus in the past?
    Due to ‘No Child Left Behind,’ high school students have been steered towards pursuing a degree program through a community college or university. In 2013, House Bill 5 (HB 5) was passed by the Texas Legislature making substantial changes to the state’s education curriculum, graduation requirements and accountability system. HB 5 restructured the Texas public school graduation requirements by moving from the “4x4” graduation plan to a 22-credit Foundation High School Program that allows students to earn endorsements in specific areas of study by completing four additional credits. The endorsements include Business & Industry, Public Service, STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math), Arts & Humanities; and Multidisciplinary Studies.
    The chapters of the IEC have amplified our proactive outreach efforts across Texas to encourage young adults looking for an exciting profession or military veterans searching for their second career to consider Electrical Apprenticeship.
    The end goal is to build relationships in a community, increase awareness and help bridge the gap between separation from high school or unemployment by leading the way into the rewarding electrical career.  In most cases, the apprentice will complete the program debt free! 
Visit www.myelectriccareer.com for more information on how to “Energize Your Career”.

Do all IEC Chapters across the state offer an apprenticeship program and how effective have the program(s) been?

    YES. IEC chapters located in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Lubbock, El Paso, the Panhandle and Rio Grande Valley, along with their contractor members, work together sponsoring hundreds of students to successfully achieve the title of Journeyman Electrician each year.  And it doesn’t stop there; many individuals who work in the electrical trades move on to Foreman, Project Manager, Estimator, Inspector or Company Owner. The electrical trade is truly a lifetime of opportunities.

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Author Info
Mary Hazlett mary@constructionnews.net