America will face a shortage of electricians in the near future, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Projections show that, by the year 2014, the national need for electrical workers will rise to more than 734,000 — a figure 78,000 beyond the number currently employed in the field.

Edwin Hill, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), says a number of factors are converging to produce the shortfall in electrical workers, from high-tech demands swelling faster than the ranks, to the overall graying of America. “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,” Hill says.

America is not alone in contending with a shortage of electricians. Around the world industrialized nations are grappling with shortfalls as their worker populations age. Germany, Austria, Belgium, Finland and the UK have all reported major electrician shortages — with an estimated 37,000 vacancies in the UK alone. Canadian analysts warn that most of that nation's skilled electricians will retire in the next 10 years, triggering a massive shortage. In Australia, the dwindling ranks of electricians and other skilled trades has become so severe that it is now the number one constraint on business investment, according to a recent survey by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Here in America, NECA and the IBEW are taking a multifaceted approach to addressing the shortage. The National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC) promotes apprenticeship programs, and a new joint IBEW/NECA website, www.electrifyingcareers.com, offers descriptions of nearly 60 different types of jobs and video testimonials from students pursuing careers in the electrical field.

“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,” Hill says.

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