January 30, 2007 -- America will face a shortage of electricians in the near future, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Projections show that, by the year 2014, the national need for electrical workers will rise to more than 734,000 - a figure 78,000 beyond the number currently employed in the field.
According to Edwin D. Hill, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW - www.ibew.org), a number of factors are seen converging to produce the predicted shortfall in electrical workers, from high-tech demands swelling faster than the ranks, to the overall graying of America. "Electrical workers are aging, as is the general population," says Hill. "The task ahead is not only to recruit and train more electricians to meet the needs of a growing industry, but to make provisions to replace current electricians who will retire."
"The predicted shortfall of electricians in the U.S. won't be just the industry's problem," adds E. Milner Irvin, president of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA - www.necanet.org). "Shortages affect all businesses up and down the line, by generally driving up the cost, and driving down the quality, of any product or service."
America is not alone in contending with a shortage of electricians. Around the world industrialized nations are grappling with shortfalls as their worker populations age. Germany, Austria, Belgium, Finland and the UK have all reported major electrician shortages, with an estimated 37,000 vacancies in the UK alone. Canadian analysts warn that most of that nation's skilled electricians will retire in the next 10 years, triggering a massive shortage. In Australia, the dwindling ranks of electricians and other skilled trades has become so severe that it is now the number one constraint on business investment, according to a recent survey by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Here in America, NECA and the IBEW report that they have taken "a multifaceted approach" to addressing the shortage. Says IBEW's Hill, "Through our National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC), we have been actively promoting our apprenticeship program to stem the manpower drop-off. Right now, we have nearly 40,000 apprentices in 290 programs around the country. And we aim to increase those numbers by committing $100 million annually to develop the electrical workforce of the future."
Students contemplating careers in the electrical industry can find encouragement to join the field at www.electrifyingcareers.com, an informative Web site jointly created by IBEW and NECA. At the site, visitors can browse through descriptions of nearly 60 different types of jobs available, as well as watch video testimonials from students already pursuing careers in this critical, opportunity-laden industry.
"The need for skilled workers to meet the growing electrical demands of our high-tech society is a concern that cuts across geographical borders," concludes Hill. "Only by national and united efforts like the NJATC can we hope to match the growing need for years to come, to keep our future bright."