The Electrician of the Future

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August 15, 2010

In the next 7 to 10 years, ‘electrical contractor’ will no longer be a suitable description of job tile for electricians. They will transition into ‘energy contractors ‘to support the fast-growing ‘green’ construction market. This is the coming renaissance in electrical contracting. There has been a revival of interest in the electrical trade as home owners and corporations adopt alternative methods (wind, solar, etc.) to power buildings. What’s driving this? Government incentives, increased awareness of global warming, focus on energy conservation as a means to reduce the need to build new electrical generation, reduced energy consumption might begin to allow us to save money, reduce operating costs – and the list goes on.

The electrical industry and most of those that are involved within will see a massive change in the years ahead. Most studies show two things – energy jobs for electricians growing in some areas by as much as 900% ( Labour study – State of Colorado 2009), but of more concern a shortage of qualified people. Electricians will have to react – they will need to ‘green’ their skill-set and re-brand themselves.

Green construction is on the rise – according to a 2009 Booz Allen Hamilton study, green construction in the USA will generate $ 554 billion dollars in GDP, provide $ 396 billion in labour earnings and support or create over 7.9 million jobs. These figures considerably higher than the previous period when GDP from green construction was just $ 173 billion, labour earnings was $ 123 billion and the number of jobs created was 2.4 million This change has come directly from increased demands for green buildings (largely driven by cost savings from reduced property operating expenses, and by new incentive programs and regulations (Clean Energy Act and Security Act). Clearly environmentally friendly construction affects the architecture, engineering construction industry collectively. Now what about the electricians?

The growing green construction market will create new demands for electricians. We have already seen some early signs with the Fit/Micro Fit solar activities in Ontario. Few if any electricians are available or properly trained. The ECAO (Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario), and IBEW have joined forces to commence new training programs. The apprenticeship program ahs for the 1st time in 5 years commenced accepting applicants. Yes electricians and the firms that employ electricians will have to ensure skills training to keep up to the diversity of new technology. From building retrofits, to mass transit, light rail projects and ‘smart grid’ transmission activities – all will need electricians.

Some examples of growing new areas for electricians


1. Lighting System Upgrades – there are an estimated 2.2 million commercial buildings in the USA that have antiquated lighting systems (old fixtures, ballasts, lamps and controls). All US Federal Buildings are required to switch to Energy Star lighting products by December 2013 (Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007). In Canada, several provinces plan to ban incandescent bulbs by 2013. Yes, some of these upgrades will be handled by local ‘handymen’, but other will require the skills and expertise of electrical contractors

2. Parking Lot Electrical Outlets – several states commenced by Minnesota now require half of all new parking lots to be equipped with electrical outlets to charge electric cars. Who will install these docking stations? Another segment of the electrical car will be the need for electricians to be trained in auto mechanics – or the auto mechanic to be trained in electrical contracting.

3. LEED certification as well as other standards for effective use of electricity will open up opportunities for the electrical contractor. Are the employees ready or have the necessary skills – perhaps not just the how to connect, but why and what might the benefits be. LEED projects get an additional point for having an accredited professional (AP) on the team. Perhaps as an electrical contractor you will want an AP on the team. It might give you a cost advantage.

The time to act is now! Get ready for the changes so that you are ready to win the new work. Are you marketing your ‘green knowledge and credentials’? In your bidding process or more importantly your pre- selling – do your customers know you have these skills and can solve their needs. With the new world of renewable energy-have you the knowledge re solar panels, wind power, biomass and what it might really cost to install. Contractors are encouraged to become acquainted with the vast number of solutions and applications available for their use. See


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