The future of electricians looks bright. With an average of 84,700 vacancies projected each year during the decade, there has never been a better time to become an electrician. Good employment prospects, rising wage levels and competition to attract top talent are hallmarks of the industry, making it clear that demand for electricians will continue to show healthy growth for the foreseeable future. However, increasing the supply of qualified electricians takes time.
Vocational education programs and long learning periods mean that it takes time to increase the number of skilled workers. IBEW-NECA has been aware of this impending skill shortage for quite some time and has taken steps to help close the gap. Community outreach activities, including programs aimed at high school students, raise awareness of the benefits of a career in the skilled trades, including high levels of job satisfaction, fair compensation, and comprehensive benefits. IBEW-NECA also offers apprentice training programs to help new workers develop the skills they need to succeed in the industry. Five years ago, concerns over a shortage of certified electricians were already coming true.
But what is behind the scarcity and what has changed? Here is an overview of the current state and what you can expect the future to look like. As with many problems, this is the result of a mismatch between supply and demand. On the supply side, there are not enough younger workers entering the construction industry, as experienced electricians are retiring in record numbers. But there is also a problem of demand. More Electricians Will Be Needed to Meet Our Nation's Increasing Electricity Needs.
The first cause behind the shortage of electricians is that experienced electricians leave the industry. While many of these retirements are part of the normal employment cycle, some are premature departures. This means that the pandemic may have pushed some electricians to retire earlier. The second cause is that younger generations are not as interested in skilled labor as previous generations. Millennials are far more likely to attend college than previous generations, with 39% having a bachelor's degree or higher compared to 29% of Gen X.
Members of Generation Z, the generation behind Millennials, are even more likely to enroll in college. High school recruitment is a key tactic to address this shortage of electricians. When high school students learn what it's like to be an electrician, they can get excited about the field and consider pursuing it as a profession. The third factor is that residential electrical permits have increased by 31.6% since pre-pandemic times, with average permit approval taking up to 30 days. This does not take into account the increased charging of residential and light commercial electric vehicles, battery storage and the proliferation of solar integration. People are using more electricity than before, and more electricians are needed to install and maintain these electrical systems. Not every industry is experiencing a shortage of electricians in the same way - while overall demand for electricians is increasing, some industries are growing more than others. The construction industry employs the largest number of electricians - about 537,700 people - and that figure is expected to grow by 11.3% over the next eight years.
Including residential demand in residential and light commercial sectors (electric vehicle chargers, battery storage and solar energy), demand will almost double to almost 21%.Since January 2021, Qmerit has been working hard to help solve this current shortage of electricians. Qmerit's workforce development team has successfully assisted in hiring 153 electricians by helping contractors maximize recruiting best practices for acquiring apprentice electricians and officers. The workforce team also provides consulting support to help employers with staff retention and skill development for electricians. Once hired as a Qmerit contractor, employers can leverage Qmerit's contractor network to collaborate and access their Resource Center (QRC). The QRC provides technicians with access to training, tutorials, technical guides, best practices and updates on emerging electrification technologies. In conclusion, while skilled labor shortages are a huge problem, taking action in this way can help mitigate its overall impact on our industry and businesses.
It's clear that concerns over a shortage of certified electricians were right - employers have struggled to fill electrician positions for years before nationwide labor shortages hit headlines.