The ongoing labor shortage that continues to plague the electrical industry is real. It’s not a surprise or a secret, and it’s not improving at a rapid pace — it’s basically just the new reality our EC&M audience has to live with. Whether you’re an electrical contractor, consulting engineer, or a plant facility engineer/technician, I’m sure you’ve felt the struggle at least to some degree. Workers are leaving the industry at a much faster clip than they can be recruited, replaced, and retained. Take electricians as an example. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of electricians is projected to grow 7% from 2021 to 2031, which equals almost 80,000 openings per year for the next decade. These openings not only stem from people pursuing careers in other industries but also to those retiring. Pew Research Center reports nearly 29 million Baby Boomers retired in 2020, and 75 million are expected to leave the workforce by 2030, paving the way for what is now being characterized as “The Great Retirement.”
Every year, respondents to our Top 50 electrical contractors and Top 40 electrical design firms surveys reveal issues with worker shortages. “Difficulty finding and retaining quality employees” has also topped their list of factors that have the most negative impact on business the last several years, even trumping supply chain problems and economic conditions/inflation. Despite these challenges, EC&M readers continue to devise and implement innovative strategies to bridge the labor gap, such as mentorship programs that match new employees with veteran workers; on-the-job training and shadowing initiatives; recruiting retired engineers/contractors to work with the younger generation; documenting veteran work practices in training materials; matching new hires with mid-level electrical professionals during training sessions; inviting experienced workers to offer leadership training to younger employees; and creating intergenerational teams to work together.
Featured in my latest EC&M On Air podcast (in honor of Father’s Day), father and son duo Bruce Clodfelter, Sr. and Bruce Clodfelter, Jr. of Rosendin Electric exemplify this exact type of thinking outside the box, which makes me confident the electrical industry will not only stay alive but also thrive in the future. Nearing retirement after working at the same electrical contracting firm for his entire career (34 years), Bruce, Sr. was convinced by his son, Bruce, Jr. (who is vice president of field operations at Rosendin) to take a leap of faith and join the Rosendin team. It’s common for electrical work to run in families or be passed down to the next generation, but this story puts a twist on passing the torch. “My son came by my house one day and asked me what I thought about coming over to Rosendin,” said Bruce, Sr. “I asked him if he needed a glass of water — maybe the heat was getting to him or something. I thought about it for a week or so, and then he came back again — he’s very persistent that way. I decided, yeah, why not? Life begins at the end of your comfort zone, so why not try something different and new. I also was really looking forward to working alongside my son again but in a different capacity.” Listen to the full podcast.
Bruce, Jr.’s unconventional idea proved to be an undeniable success. When it comes to mentoring, what insight did Bruce, Sr. possess that clicked so easily with his younger peers? “When he came on board, I think it was just his overall knowledge and years of experience,” said Bruce, Jr. “Yes, he was new to Rosendin, but he was definitely not new to the trade. When he would speak, people immediately realized there was something they could gain here. Yes, there’s knowledge but also experience that backs that knowledge.
“It’s not just having that presence, but also the patience — being able to pause a moment and listen to where people are coming from and then bringing that experience back to the table.”
It’s people like the Clodfelters that continue to inspire and motivate the next generation in this industry. And speaking of innovative young electrical professionals, this year’s group of 30 Under 30 Electrical All Stars, featured in the cover story starting and written by Freelance Writer Amy Fischbach, is a testament to the bright future of this industry. In this special report, read the personal journeys of 30 individuals who are innovating best practices, investing in training and technology, and moving the industry forward.