Acting Today to Ensure Tomorrow’s Workforce

Feb. 19, 2007
How are industry organizations addressing a future skilled-labor shortage?

By Linda K. Monroe

While writing this month’s article on compensation expectations and perspectives, I’m reminded of the many conversations I’ve had with related industry organizations - mainly “the trades” - and their concerns about the interest level and, ultimately, the availability of enough skilled labor in the future. Predicted shortfalls are based on a number of factors, ranging from high-tech demands swelling faster than the ranks to the overall graying of America.

Now, the Bethesda, MD-based National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the Washington, D.C.-based Intl. Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) - acting through their joint marketing organization, the National Labor-Management Cooperation Committee (NLMCC) - have announced an aggressive campaign to ensure their future (and yours). Explains Edwin D. Hill, IBEW president, “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.”

NECA President E. Milner Irvin concurs with this assessment, adding an important cautionary note: “The predicted shortfall of electricians in the [United States] won’t be just the industry’s problem. 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.”

Although such labor concerns are shared across the globe, countries differ in the strategies devised to meet future workforce needs. In Finland, where 99 percent of electricians are men, efforts are aimed at attracting women to the field. In Australia, recruiters are looking overseas, encouraging skilled electricians to immigrate.

Here in America, NECA and IBEW have taken a multi-faceted approach to address the shortage. Says 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.” What’s more, students contemplating careers can find encouragement to join the field at (

Are other trades acting as well? Please let me know at ([email protected]).

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