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 those surveyed said the industry was facing a shortage of electricians.
Five years later, concerns about a shortage of electricians continue to be a reality.
Despite COVID-19-related layoffs in early 2020, finding skilled workers continues to be a challenge for many industries. As of December 31, 2020, there were 195,000 open positions across the construction industry, including electrician positions.
Of course, news of a shortage of electricians is nothing new. Electrical Contractor magazine wrote about the impending shortage in 2003 and warned that "it's too late to avoid it."
As with many issues, the shortage of electricians is the result of a mismatch between supply and demand.
On the supply side, there are not enough young electricians entering the industry because experienced electricians are retiring.
But there is also a demand issue. More electricians are needed to meet our nation's growing demand for electricity.
Looking at the big picture, there are three main reasons behind the shortage of electricians.
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 leaving prematurely.
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 is 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 electricians were emerging to replace them. Unfortunately, they are not.
One possible reason for this change is that the younger generation is less 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 more likely to attend college than previous generations - 39 percent of Millennials have a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to 29 percent of Gen Xers. Members of Generation Z, the generation behind Millennials, 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 become excited about the field and consider it as a career pursuit.
But striking a balance between retirements and new hires isn't the answer either. We need more than leaving for some new electricians.
Electrical work is a growing industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, electrician jobs are expected to grow by 8.4 percent from 2019 to 2029. That's more than twice the projected 3.7 percent growth rate for all occupations.
The increase in demand is being driven by an increase in electronic equipment and building components that rely on electricity. From 2021 to 2022 alone, total U.S. electricity use is expected to grow by 1.4 percent.
People are using more electricity than ever before, and more electricians will be needed to install and maintain these electrical systems.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), the United States will face a shortage of electricians in the near future. The trade group says 7,000 electricians enter the field each year, but 10,000 retire. the BLS reports that employment of electricians is expected to grow by 10 percent from 2018 to 2028 - higher than the average for all occupations.
The shortage is due to more than just the number of retiring electricians outpacing the number of new ones. Many have not returned after the recession forced thousands of contractors out of business. Many also attribute the shortage to the elimination of store classes in high schools, a focus on college rather than trade schools, and a negative perception of the job as long hours of hard work with no career advancement. However, this perception may be changing.
While the shortage of skilled labor presents challenges for the construction industry and homeowners trying to hire skilled workers, it also provides opportunities for workers. Take a look at some of the potential opportunities that becoming an electrician may present.
According to PayScale, the average annual salary for an electrician is $55,477. According to the BLS, the top 10 percent of electricians earn more than $90,420.
But the CEO of a tool manufacturing company recently told FOX Business' Ashley Webster that potential wages for electricians are climbing due to labor shortages. Ideal Industries CEO Jim James told Webster that electricians who own a business have the potential to earn six-figure salaries -- $150,000 to $200,000.
To address the shortage of electricians, James is working to raise awareness of such high salaries. Four years ago, he launched a contest to convince young people to become electricians. Part of his strategy is to convince parents that their children can make a good living in the field.
Others who are working to increase the number of electricians are also trying to promote the salary potential. John Puckett, a former instructor at the Construction Industry Technical Institute, a statewide program that promotes trade careers in California schools, told the Orange County Register that construction jobs can be lucrative, especially for those who advance or start their own companies.
Unionized electricians earn more than non-unionized ones. In eastern Michigan, which is highly unionized, a comparison shows that when you add up wages and benefits (such as pensions and health insurance), union workers can make twice as much as non-union workers.
How much money can you make as an electrician? Takethe PayScale Salary Survey and get your free salary report today.
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