Back in 2016, one in five electricians said their biggest concern over the next five years was experienced electricians retiring or leaving the industry. 70 percent of respondents said the industry is facing a shortage of electricians.
Five years later, concerns about a shortage of certified electricians continue to be a reality. There are currently an estimated 81,252 open electrician jobs in the United States. The future is expected to grow!
A record number of experienced electricians are retiring this year, but our nation's growing demand for electricity requires more electricians to meet it, and there aren't enough young workers currently entering the construction industry.
The first reason behind the electrician shortage is the departure of experienced electricians from the industry. While many of these retirements are part of the normal employment cycle, some are premature departures.
The Great Recession of 2008 had a profound impact on the construction industry. As new construction projects declined, millions of people lost their jobs. Even when jobs came back, many professional trade workers did not return to the industry.
The recent COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated retirement schedules across all industries. The Pew Research Center reports that more baby boomers will retire in 2020 than in previous years.
This means the pandemic could prompt some electricians to retire early. While it's too early to tell how COVID-19 will affect the long-term outlook for electrician jobs, the short-term impact is not encouraging.
Electricians leaving the industry would not be a problem if new apprentice electricians were replacing them. Unfortunately, they are not. The average age of a skilled electrician is 44 years old.
One reason for this change is that the younger generation is not as interested in a skilled workforce. Instead of attending trade schools or seeking apprenticeships, young people are enrolling in two- or four-year colleges and universities.
Millennials are far more likely to attend college than previous generation products - more than 39 percent of Millennials have a bachelor's degree or higher, relative to 29 percent of Gen Xers. Millennials are behind members of Generation Z who are more likely to attend college.
This shift is one reason why high school recruiting has become a key strategy for addressing the electrician shortage. When high school students learn what it's like to be an electrician, they get excited about the field and consider it as a career pursuit.
Electrical work is a growing industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, electrician jobs are expected to grow by 11.4 percent from 2019 to 2029. That's more than three times the projected 3.7 percent growth rate for all occupations.
Another factor that supports this is the increase in residential electric permits, which are now up 31.6 percent over the pre-pandemic period, with an average permit approval time of up to 30 days.
This does not take into account the increase in residential and light commercial electric vehicle charging, battery storage and the proliferation of solar integration.
The growth in demand is proportional to the growth in electronic devices and building components that rely on electricity. From 2021 to 2022 alone, totalU.S. electricity use is expected to grow by 12.4%.
People are using more electricity than ever before, and more electricians will be needed to install and maintain these electrical systems.
A survey of electrical service contractors in May 2021 showed that the backlog associated with residential service requests averaged four weeks. A leading indicator of the gap in the amount of labor needed to meet demand.
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