Writers have been busy wringing their hands over a “coming workforce crisis” in industry and manufacturing for years. Hand wringing is a professional hazard for magazine editors and other writers. You know, like the old fable about Chicken Little and “the sky is falling.”

I’ve long maintained that we will tackle these problems in due time as the opportunities and actual needs arise.

Klein Tools catalyzed my thoughts in this direction once more by sending a not on the results of its second-annual ‘State of the Industry’ survey. Over the course of two years, the survey asked more than 400 union and non-union electricians about their project preferences on job sites. This year it found higher percentages of electricians who prefer to work on high-tech installations, and home technology remains the most widely viewed residential trend by electricians.

High-tech Installations

The Klein Tools’ State of the Industry survey found preferences towards working on industrial projects, office buildings and commercial properties have stayed relatively the same since last year. There was a noticeable increase, however, in the number of union electricians, and electricians with 10 to 19 years’ experience, indicating they prefer to work on high-tech installations.

  • This year, 42 percent of union electricians say they prefer working on high-tech installations, up from 31 percent in 2015.·
  • The survey also found 51 percent of electricians with 10 to 19 years of industry experience said they prefer working on high-tech installations, a significant increase from 24 percent in 2015.
  • In comparison, 29 percent of electricians with less than 10 years’ experience said they prefer working on high-tech installations, and only 24 percent of electricians with more than 20 years’ experience said they prefer working on high-tech installations.

“We’re seeing increased interest from younger electricians and apprentices in high-tech systems. They see opportunities to work on the latest technology as a way to gain experience in an area of future growth and like the challenge associated with learning a complicated skill,” said Mark Klein, president of Klein Tools. “It’s great to also learn many experienced electricians are taking a fondness to more advanced systems and want to keep up-to-date on their craft. This allows electricians with varying levels of expertise to learn from each other on the jobsite and advance the entire industry as technology continues changing the way we operate.”

Multi-Family and Smart Homes

The Klein Tools’ State of the Industry survey also found electricians are seeing more smart or “connected” homes in residential areas. Technology in homes is the most popular trend viewed amongst electricians—over open living spaces, home additions and multi-family homes. However, multi-family homes have significantly increased since 2015.

·       Nearly one-half of electricians, 48 percent, are seeing more smart or connected homes in the residential area—just slightly down from 56 percent in 2015.
o   One-third of electricians, or 31 percent, are seeing more multi-family homes in the residential area, up significantly from 25 percent in 2015.

“This tech-focused residential data aligns with what we’re seeing in the industry,” added Klein. “Contractors are calling for more technicians who are skilled in newer, more digital-tech focused systems, and technicians are doing their best to keep up with this developing trend. Klein Tools is working with its partners to ensure younger electricians are trained in the old and news models so they are prepared for all types of scenarios on the job site.”

Solving Not Hand Wringing Over Workforce

In the same vein of thinking, these writers have also been wringing hands over millennials. Will they work? Will they just be like when they were kids? How about the following generation? Coddled and part of the entitlement society where everyone won a trophy, will they be able to hold a job?

Well, “they” said that about my generation. And the GenX generation. Overall, despite some problems with kids learning to make their way, there are plenty of good workers. They also bring along some better values than the later part of the Boomers who thought mostly about partying and drugs.

Educators and business executives rise to meet challenges. Check out Paul Galeski’s column in ISA InTech on mentoring. This is an important initiative that companies can promote. Or, just you. If you are not mentoring someone now, find someone.

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