In Defense of Continuing Education

Klein tools 2017 surveyIn a recent State of the Industry press release from Klein Tools, results were released from their survey of more than 600 union and non-union electricians (American survey) that illuminated one major concern – experienced skilled electricians are leaving the field. Two primary reasons for seeing this decrease, according to the survey, are:

  • the physical demands of the job
  • insufficient continuing education opportunities

Let’s talk for a moment about what we are seeing anecdotally in Winnipeg right now. MG Services has done quite a bit of hiring for our electrical team this year, mostly apprentices. When the postings have gone up, we have been inundated with applicants. Since we ask potential hires to bring their resume in person, we have the opportunity to speak to candidates about their experience in the apprenticeship program and their job search. A constant theme we hear is how difficult it is to secure a position with a company and only a handful of their graduating class have found related jobs.

We might receive 60 application for a Level 1 Electrical Apprentice position within the week of an ad post, interview 12-15 candidates, and then hire 1 person. Where do the other 59 electrical apprentices go? Electrical apprentices seem to be churned out every term at various schools in the city but how many jobs are available for them once they enter the workforce?

As more experienced electricians age and begin looking for less physically demanding jobs, perhaps within the same company in an office position (estimating, project managing, running a department, etc), the newer and less experienced workers have more opportunities to back-fill some of those positions. If those more experienced workers do not leave the field positions, we have another problem – less opportunities for the new apprentices.

This is where continuing education plays a vital role in this mix. While a more experienced Journeyperson may be at the top level as far as knowledge in the field, it can be a challenge to transition into an office position that may require a different set of soft skills, administration and management skills, and other education that isn’t always learned on the job.

Taking control of your future and planning ahead are the keys to a smoother transition from the physical demands of field work and into a position where that on-site knowledge translates into a new role. Decide how long you think you can or want to continue working in the field. Already aches and pains? Injuries that are flaring up? Perhaps you are thinking you would like to transition in 10 years, 5 years, 3 years – it is never too early to start planning.

What distinct skills and assets do you bring to the company you are currently working for? Perhaps you really love running a team and managing different personalities and skill levels. Maybe your knowledge of installation costs, code, and manpower are top notch. Maybe excellent customer service is really something you excel at. Understand your strengths but understand where you need to improve or upgrade. Do you have trouble addressing and resolving conflicts when they arise on a job-site? Maybe you struggle with organization and attention to detail. Being able to identify and address your own skill gaps might be one the most important things you can do for your future employment.

Now that you know when and how you want to transition, figure out if that plan works with your current employer. Moving from a Foreman position into a Project Management position in the next 3 year might be your path, but does that fit into your organization’s needs and plans. Have the discussion with your manager or employer.

Finally, make sure your skills match the industry standards for the position you want to eventually transition to. If you’re unsure, do some job searches online and see what experience an education companies are asking for. If you are missing some of the required skills and training, search out where you can get this training. Your employer may even help off-set the cost of your training or cover all of the costs if they can see the value to their organization. If you’re planning ahead, you can take this training over a longer period of time. There are so many great sources for training:

  • Winnipeg Construction Association offers a wide variety of Industry Education, Courses, Certifications, and e-Learning
  • Technical Colleges – continuing education or certificate programs
  • Continuing Education classes through local school divisions (brush up on soft-skills, computer programs, etc)
  • Youtube videos

Nobody will ever care more about your own future than you. Have a goal, make a plan, and work at it.

“A clear vision, backed by definite plans, gives you a tremendous feeling of confidence and personal power.” – Brian Tracy, The Gift of Self Confidence