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Catherine Colbert

Fewer Millennials Taking Up Trades

by Catherine Colbert | Dun & Bradstreet Editor

December 8, 2015 | No Comments »

TradesLooking to rebuild its ranks after the recent recession, the electrical contracting industry faces a shallow labor pool in the coming years as fewer millennials take up trade careers.

The construction industry lost 2 million jobs between 2006 and 2010, according to Associated General Contractors of America, as once-promising projects were either put on hold or scrapped entirely. Frustrated and displaced workers sought training in more lucrative fields such as technology and health care, went into the trucking and energy sectors, or hung up their tool belts permanently and retired.

Because millennials have typically focused on a four-year college education, trade careers, including electrical contracting, are taking a back seat as a worthy prospect, mostly because construction work is perceived as low-skilled.

As a result, a dearth of qualified electricians is expected as many experienced electricians inch toward retirement age.

The world’s current construction boom is making matters worse for companies aiming to maintain a stable of talented trades. Global revenue for construction of all types exceeds $7 trillion today and is expected to surpass $15 trillion by 2025, according to Oxford Economics.

In the US, demand for electrical contractors is rising, particularly in 10 leading metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) identified by Electrical Wholesaling. These areas are experiencing growth in the number of developments for single-family homes and multifamily developments. The Chicago, Houston, and Los Angeles MSAs lead the list. Other MSAs identified as growth areas for electricians include New York City; Atlanta; Anaheim, California; Minneapolis-St. Paul; Lake County, Illinois; Dallas/Fort Worth; and Milwaukee.

Electrician jobs are projected to grow 20% by 2022 compared to 2012, faster than the average for all occupations. Contributing to the rise are residential and commercial projects, which require more wiring, and older equipment in manufacturing plants that needs to be maintained.

Vocational and community college educators are looking to lure young workers to trade education with the industry’s more prevalent use of tablets, smartphones, virtual gang boxes, and drones. They’re also touting that electricians are often the most highly paid trade workers at US construction sites, earning wages 30% higher than the national average.

Electrical contractors wanting to spark interest in the highly paid trade are promoting the industry’s focus on energy efficiency, alternative power, and eco-friendly construction practices — all areas of interest for millennials.

Industry Impact — Electrical contractors should amp up their recruiting efforts to millennials in high schools and on social media by touting the trade’s high pay, Earth-friendly initiatives, and increased use of technology.


Tracking the moves of consumer products makers since 2003, Colbert is a company insights writer and blogger. Before covering companies, she spent ample time in magazine publishing, technical writing, ad copywriting, medical writing, and marketing. Follow her on Twitter.

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