What do you think of when you think of an Electrician? Is it someone that connects lights to switches in your bathroom? Someone who installs a circuit breaker in your garage? But they play a more significant role than only connecting the electrical wires in your home, although that is still an important task. They are working the front lines of the Renewable Energy Transition.
Iftiger, Camryn. “Electrical Illustration.” January 20, 2023
Climate change is growing more apparent by the day. You don’t have to look at complex graphs to know that it’s happening. You can look at your local newspaper or out your window at the mucus-colored grass instead of the bright white blanket of snow we usually see in mid-January. Decreasing our CO2 emissions is vital to battle the effects of climate change. The best solution to this problem is converting our traditional energy methods to renewable energy methods; this includes switching to solar panels, electric vehicles, wind turbines; instead of gas-powered cars and homes heated with natural gas. But to install these, we need electricians.
The Current Shortage
Currently, there is an electrician shortage. There is a significant increase in projects due to the demand for renewable energy. But the rate of people leaving this profession is higher than the number of people entering. Therefore the problem is not the job availability but the amount of skilled labor. Businesses that once had twelve electricians now only have two.
Why is there a SHORTAGE?
The rate of people leaving the electrician profession increased due to Covid-19. Many people over 55 in the trade profession retired prematurely in 2020 and 2021. During this period, numerous people left their jobs voluntarily in every vocation, also known as the Great Resignation. Covid-19 allowed them to think about their careers and experience remote work, which many felt gave them more freedom. But as resignations dropped, Electricians are still coming up short; most likely because the younger generation is less interested in skilled labor. Some speculate a generation raised on technology and less hands-on activities is the culprit. It could also be due to a shifted thinking from the pandemic. In 2021, many Gen Z wanted to pursue new jobs, with construction rated as low 16.7% among career preferences. Another trend with the younger generation is that they are more likely to pursue higher education degrees. To become an electrician, you need a high school diploma and participate in an apprenticeship program or trade school. But you can now find Associate’s degrees or programs affiliated with colleges for Electrician training at community colleges like Hudson Valley. This way, young adults can still have some college experience and community as their peers.
Chart: Zachary Phillips, Golden, Ryan. “Construction’s Career Crisis: Recruiters Target Young Workers Driving the Great Resignation.” Construction Dive, 25 Oct. 2021.
The field of trade does have some negative light. Does a picture come to mind when you think of what an electrician looks like? What is their gender? What is their socioeconomic status? What is their race? These stereotypes can discourage someone from even considering trade work. About 33% of trade workers are female, but according to the 2021 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 1.7% of electricians are female. Although these numbers may seem disheartening for female inclusivity in trade, the numbers have increased in recent years. Offering courses at colleges allows for more inclusion by offering a safe learning institution for a male-dominated field.
How is it being Encouraged?
To increase the number of electricians, different clean energy projects are underway. The Inflation Reduction Act supports and encourages these projects. Firstly, to become an electrician, one must go through an apprenticeship. The Inflation Reduction Act requires companies receiving clean energy incentives to employ a certain number of apprentices providing more entry-level positions. The IRA will protect workers from being underpaid, and it is initiating Make it in America provisions to combat recent supply-chain issues. Electrical work can come with risks, and accidents can happen, so the IRA is also lowering healthcare costs.
Again it is also encouraged with more learning options with apprenticeships, courses, or degrees at local colleges with day or night schools to be accommodating. There are also programs such as Nontraditional Employment for Women in NYC to support women’s struggles in male-dominated careers. Furthermore, New York state has one of the highest-paying salaries for electricians.
How Does it Make a Difference?
Not only does this career path benefit individuals, but it also makes a global impact. According to the Unites Nations Report on Energy Transition, the energy sector makes up approximately 65% of Greenhouse gasses; we must convert to renewable energy sources for a sustainable future for the planet and ourselves. This future is only possible with the help of electricians paving the way to renewable energy. This transition will create energy security, social inclusion, new jobs, and improved health for everyone.
Talk to someone at Seed today to learn more about renewable energy sources or this impactful career path!
~By Camryn Iftiger, Intern at Seed solar, Electric and Engineering. Camryn is a 2021 graduate from UVM with a major in Environmental Studies and English.