Hire Heroes USA Spotlight: Electrical Industry
Give Skilled Labor a Chance
Servicemembers transitioning out of the military are often looking for jobs with comparable benefits, education, and a pension. Have you ever thought about popping the blue-collar? Today’s job market is primed for skilled labor and you might just be someone’s everyday hero.
The shortage of skilled labor is no joke. According to a study from Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, “the skills gap may leave an estimated 2.4 million positions unfilled between 2018 and 2028…. Persistent skills shortage(s) could risk US $2.5 trillion economic output over the next decade” (3-5). That is a lot of vacant jobs out there – with a hefty price on the US if don’t we turn things around. Don’t get me wrong, skilled labor is not an easy path. It still requires advanced training and education, and you may even need an Associate Degree from a community or junior college.
I recently discussed opportunities for veterans in the skilled trades with Mike Kufchak, a retired Marine Corps Sergeant Major. He is now the Director of Veteran Affairs for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 11. He is a champion of the skilled labor movement and represents electricians in the Los Angeles area. Electrical skilled trades are needed now more than ever and provide amazing opportunities, pay and benefits.
During our discussion, Mike emphasized that “[People] are only limited by themselves! Opportunity, pay, and benefits within the union are equal for men and women. Women are just as capable to perform the work at all levels of the building trades. Working in the skilled trades can be a source of empowerment, independence and advancement.”
What is the level and type of education required?
An Inside Wireman, for example, completes a 5-year apprenticeship, comprised of ten semesters of formal education and 8,000 hours of “on the job” training. Mike emphasized that an apprentice is paid for all on the job training. The cost of apprenticeship training and classes is approximately $35,000 and is fully paid for by the Union.
What is the pay?
Mike shared that an average Journeyman in the Los Angeles Area earns $46/hour before benefits and is fully compensated at $78/hour. Pay varies, depending on your location due to the cost of living; larger metropolitan areas tend to pay more.
According to O*Net, the national average wage for an electrician is $26.01/hour, which is about $54,100 annually. Comparatively, Jane Burnett reported in her article for The Ladders that the “average person with a 4-year degree will earn approximately $50,398.40 within their first year [of work]. “A new electrician with a paid 5-year apprenticeship can potentially make more than a new graduate with a 4-year degree. This is something to seriously consider.
Mike mentioned that a transitioning veteran is highly desirable “because of reliability, dependability, accountability, leadership, and they are drug-free. With the changing laws and the advancement of hair follicle testing capabilities, we can know the drug history of applicants. It is a safety issue. Veterans are immersed in a heavy safety environment, resulting in responsible behavior and a drug-free mentality.” As you can imagine, safety compliance is essential with electrical work, giving veterans an edge in the vetting process.
How do you get into the Union and what is the process for veterans?
Mike referenced the “Helmets to Hardhats” program which sends him potential veteran candidates in the Los Angeles area. He also hosts booths at job fairs and community events. Additionally, he gives presentations and is a speaker at many local events which drive his recruiting pool. You can also get connected via the internet and the local union network.
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 11 actively reaches out to veterans and provides a “fast track” into the union. If a veteran has an honorable discharge and good re-enlistment status, the union waives certain requirements to enter the union’s boot camp program. The fast track pushes veterans through in 6 to 9 months from application to boot camp, as opposed to the normal 2-year wait. If you are thinking about applying, be sure to connect with the union and let them know that you are a veteran. Other local unions may have a similar program.
If you are looking for a career as an electrical journeyman, the future is bright. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industry is expected to grow 9% from 2016 to 2026. To get more information, check out your local International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union. For veterans in the Los Angeles area, connect with Mike Kufchack to learn more.
“2018 Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute skills Gap and future of work study.” Deloitte Insights. http://www.themanufacturinginstitute.org/~/media/E323C4D8F75A470E8C96D7A07F0A14FB/DI_2018_Deloitte_MFI_skills_gap_FoW_study.pdf
Burnnett, Jane. “2018 College Graduates will earn an average salary of $50K.” Ladders. May 2018. https://www.theladders.com/career-advice/if-you-graduate-this-year-youre-likely-to-make-more-than-50k-in-your-first-job
“Electricians-Job Outlook” Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics. March 18, 2019 https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/electricians.htm
“Electricians” Summary Report, March 18, 2019. https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/47-2111.00
Kufchak, Michael. Personal Interview. March, 18, 2019