You Gotta Start Somewhere

Julie scooped ice cream at Baskin-Robbins. Tim took orders and cleaned bathrooms at McDonald’s. Matt poured sodas and told kids his own age to get their feet off of the seats at a Cinemark. Hannah was a cashier at a campground. Dominique worked at Foot Locker. And Andrea started at the Body Shop (not the kind that fixes up cars, but the cosmetics and skin care store).

We all took different paths to get here, but we all started somewhere. This issue asks, “Why not electrical construction?”

You’ve probably heard once or twice that the industry faces a growing skilled-labor shortage. You may not know what to do about it or what organizations like NECA are doing about it.

In Susan Bloom’s “Moving the Needle,” Kevin Tighe, executive director, labor relations and workforce development for NECA, tells us the numbers make a compelling argument. Opportunities abound, and young people can make very good money without incurring student debt (which we editors can attest to being a bit of a bummer). Tighe expressed the sentiment that the industry faces a perception issue, and it’s going to take everyone to dispel it.

“I speak to high school teachers and administrators all the time, and unfortunately, many don’t promote electrical apprenticeships to their students,” he said. “My No. 1 goal is to flip the script and dispel the myth concerning what our industry can provide, because many schools just aren’t connected to what we can offer today.”

He also said there might be some anxiety about coming to the trade without skills but that the on-the-job training can take care of that.

“Candidates just need to have a passion for their career, show up ready to go and bring it every day, and we can teach them all of the hard skills,” Tighe said.

This issue doesn’t stop there.

In “The Untapped Resource,” contributor Ben Bigelow presents a case for a rich workforce market in women and minorities and how to attract them to our industry. He says that it will take some out-of-the-box thinking, and he backs up his suggestions with data.

In “The Industry Strikes Back” (featuring a layout design you’re probably expecting but will not be disappointed in, courtesy of Paul Philpott at Bonotom Studio), two of our faves, Andrew McCoy and Fred Sargent, have put together a conversation in writing about the changes in electrical construction. Their stories don’t begin in retail or food service like ours did, but it’s a worthwhile read regardless.

The final feature on the jobs front, “A Bright Spot for Employment,” by Chuck Ross, digs into the opportunities in renewables. There also is a possibility that this arena presents employers with competition for available trained workers.

This is the first time we’ve ever focused on the workforce development topic as a global editorial theme, but it won’t be the last time we cover it. The skilled-labor shortage won’t go away, but it can be managed. That is up to contractors and the organizations and associations that support them. We will be here to help as best as we can with the practical knowledge, insight and guidance to see you through.

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