Want To Electrify Everything? Train More Electricians — Quickly

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We have heard the call over the past few years to electrify everything. Doing so will rapidly decrease carbon emissions and help to stave off dangerous levels of global warming. The pace of installing EV chargers, solar panels, induction stoves, heat pumps, wind turbines, transmission lines, and everything else needed for the world to run on 100% clean power by 2050 is amazing to watch. It also requires the expertise of electricians. Unfortunately, there are not enough electricians to fulfill the enormous need. We need to train more electricians — a lot more electricians.

The electrical industry say the country is already facing an electrician shortage — and it could get worse as clean energy ramps up.

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The Federal Push for Electrifying Everything

There is $72 million devoted in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill for training the clean energy workforce.  Then there is the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which is appropriating $200 million for job training,

“Due to legislative achievements such as The Inflation Reduction Act, initiatives that increase investments in renewable energy are contributing to the growth of careers in the energy sector,” says Jason Miller, CEO of PromoLeaf, a Utah-based promotional products company, told CleanTechnica in an exclusive. “In fact, green jobs in renewable energy are the fastest-growing when it comes to careers in the green sector.”

Miller reveals that some of the hot jobs for electricians within the next decade are Wind Turbine Technicians (set to grow by 68%) and Solar Photovoltaic Installers (expected in increase by 52%).

The median salary in a green job is $76,530/year, Miller describes, which is 31% more than the national median salary for the US workforce ($58,260). The information is part of PromoLeaf’s Green Jobs Report analysis.

Rewiring America concurs, explaining that the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will deliver “huge savings” in the US:

  • Household benefits: The average American household will receive $10,600 in IRA benefits to fully electrify.
  • Household savings: Households will save on average $1,800 per year.
  • Number of households: 120 million households across the country can benefit from these provisions.
  • Number of jobs created: 1.4 million direct and 5 million total jobs can be created in the US.

New York, Boston, Seattle, and San Francisco are requiring that new buildings run only on electricity. Berkeley, California, pioneered the legislation in 2019.

What can the US and other countries do to train more electricians as the nation adapts to more renewable power generation? How will upgrades to transmission capacity be affected by a deficit of electricians? A robust workforce is needed to wire, connect, and install new electric lines.

However, moving away from fossil fuels is sometimes viewed as a dangerous decision since it might cost the country jobs in fossil fuel industries; coal mining is showcased as an example. Yet the coal mining industry today employs around 37,000 people — less than 6% of the number of people employed as electricians. Existential fear on the part of the fossil fuel industry has resulted in scare tactics that make legacy workers question whether they’ll find a place in the new all electric workplace.

Change is in the air, though.

Rewiring America explains that shifting the economy away from fossil fuels will require no fewer than 1 billion new electrical appliances, cars, and other items in US households alone. For example, people are becoming keenly aware that, on average, replacing a gas powered car with an EV will slash carbon pollution by about two-thirds when calculated over the car’s life span — even when accounting for the grid’s current makeup and the emissions associated with the vehicle and battery production.

Where are the electricians to install those EV chargers?

What Will It Take to Train More Electricians?

Green sector jobs continue to be on the rise. With that broad designation, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects growth of electrician jobs will increase by 9.1% from 2020 to 2030. New approaches to incentify workers to join the electrical field will help.

Apprentices wanted: Workers wanting to become electricians have to do an apprenticeships first, either through a union or a company. The Inflation Reduction Act, the landmark climate law passed by Congress in August, includes a requirement that companies that receiving tax incentives for wind and solar energy also employ a certain portion of apprentices: 10% of labor hours in 2022 and 15% by 2024. The Biden-Harris administration has highlighted registered apprenticeship to address some of the nation’s pressing workforce challenges, according to outgoing US Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. The federal initiative “will further support private-public partnerships that help youth across the country access a college education, good-paying jobs, and strong pathways to the middle class.”

Bring unions into the conversation: It will be essential to collaborate with union labor so accepted standards and pay will be incorporated into large projects and retrofits. Union training programs can also help increase the number of electricians in the field, but they typically operate and blossom when there is guaranteed demand.

Replace the negative connotation to the Trades: More than 75% of high school and college students in 2021 wanted to work in technology, therefore more likely to attend college than pursue a skilled labor job. The desire for jobs with flexible hours and potential for remote work often steers them away from trade jobs. Some groups are working to expose more young people to the options of joining a trade like the electrical field. Those efforts include offering support through the first few months of employment.

Municipal help: Municipal governments can take on the role of converting their electrified buildings into training centers for workforce development. They can install charging networks directly wired to municipal power lines instead of requiring residents to go solo with new infrastructure.

Invest in underrepresented people and places: Additional investment in retraining and reskilling is imperative in order to train more electricians. So, too, is focusing on under-invested communities and demographics, veterans, and the persons who had once been incarcerated.

Final Thoughts

At least $25.7 billion in new US clean energy factories are in the works, thanks in part to the subsidies in Biden-Harris administration’s landmark climate law, the Inflation Reduction Act. Beneficiaries of federal legislation will help the US to wean off fossil fuel power, but it will take more electricians to make the vision a reality.

Ever thought about being an electrician? You should, because the job is always in demand, you have potential for massive career growth, and working as an electrician is both a challenging and rewarding career. The time has never been better to join the field!

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Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn Fortuna, PhD, is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavey Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a 2022 Tesla Model Y as well as a 2017 Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Substack: https://carolynfortuna.substack.com/.

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