Study: Electricians Swarm to High-Tech Commercial Jobs, Smart Homes Amid Unrest

Study by Klein Tools shows strong uptick in electricians working on ‘high-tech’ commercial projects and ‘home technology’ installations in 2016, as growing unrest from the recession still lingers in the field with 42% looking to move into related fields, including IT.

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Not surprisingly, home technology high-tech commercial installations are the hot markets for electricians, making for even more competition for low-voltage integrators. That conclusion was verified by the second-annual Klein Tools State of the Industry survey conducted among electricians by the venerable tool manufacturer.

Over the course of two years, the survey asked more than 400 union and non-union electricians about their project preferences on job sites. This year it found higher percentages of electricians who prefer to work on high-tech installations, and home technology remains the most widely viewed residential trend by electricians.

High-Tech Commercial Work

The survey found preferences towards working on industrial projects, office buildings and commercial properties have stayed relatively the same since last year. There was a noticeable increase, however, in the number of union electricians, and electricians with 10 to 19 years’ experience, indicating they prefer to work on high-tech installations.

  • 42 percent of union electricians say they prefer working on high-tech installations in 2016, up from 31 percent in 2015.
  • 51 percent of electricians with 10 to 19 years of industry experience said they prefer working on high-tech installations, a significant increase from 24 percent in 2015.
  • In comparison, 29 percent of electricians with less than 10 years’ experience said they prefer working on high-tech installations, and only 24 percent of electricians with more than 20 years’ experience said they prefer working on high-tech installations.
  • A majority of electricians (56%) prefer to work on industrial/utility projects.
  • Nearly two-fifths of electricians (37%) prefer to work on new home construction.
  • Electricians with 20 or more years work experience are significantly less likely to prefer working in new home construction (27%), compared to less experienced electricians (50% of those with less than 10 years of experience, and 44% of those with 10-19 years of experience).

“We’re seeing increased interest from younger electricians and apprentices in high-tech systems. They see opportunities to work on the latest technology as a way to gain experience in an area of future growth and like the challenge associated with learning a complicated skill,” said Mark Klein, president of Klein Tools. “It’s great to also learn many experienced electricians are taking a fondness to more advanced systems and want to keep up-to-date on their craft. This allows electricians with varying levels of expertise to learn from each other on the jobsite and advance the entire industry as technology continues changing the way we operate.”

Multi-Family and Smart Homes

The Klein Tools’ State of the Industry survey also found electricians are seeing more smart or “connected” homes in residential areas. Technology in homes is the most popular trend viewed amongst electricians—over open living spaces, home additions and multi-family homes. However, multi-family homes have significantly increased since 2015. 

  • Nearly one-half of electricians, 48 percent, are seeing more smart or connected homes in the residential area—just slightly down from 56 percent in 2015.
  • One-third of electricians, or 31 percent, are seeing more multi-family homes in the residential area, up significantly from 25 percent in 2015.

“This tech-focused residential data aligns with what we’re seeing in the industry,” said Mark Klein, president of Klein Tools. “Contractors are calling for more technicians who are skilled in newer, more digital-tech focused systems, and technicians are doing their best to keep up with this developing trend. Klein Tools is working with its partners to ensure younger electricians are trained in the old and news models so they are prepared for all types of scenarios on the job site.”

He adds, “The preference in industrial jobs over home construction stems from perceived job security. Electricians want projects that guarantee long spans of continuous work and increased opportunity for referral and additional contracting. We will see a shift back toward home construction as the 2016 building season takes off. Klein Tools will be ready to help support and serve electricians on any of their job sites as we have done for 158 years.”

Unrest Among Electricians

In the meantime, the study also seems to suggest unrest in the electrical field with the lingering effects of the housing recession still lingering in the trade. According to the study, many electricians are leaving the field as they recognize a decline in available work or develop an interest in alternate trades.

One-half of electricians (51%) who have seen an increase in electricians leaving the field cite less available work as a reason for pursuing other careers.

Electricians who have seen an increase in peers leaving the field have noticed:

  • Nearly three in 10 electricians (28%) go into professional trades such as installers or technicians.
  • More than one-fifth electricians (22%) go into professional specialties such as computing/IT or engineering.
  • One in five electricians (19%) goes into careers such as maintenance or construction.

That data is interesting, since the study shows that four out of 10 (42%) electricians entered the field for “long-term security” and 35 percent did so because they believed it would always be in demand. 

The ‘State of the Industry’ survey was conducted by Russell Research, an independent survey research firm, which conducted 201 online interviews from January 20 – 26, 2015, and 200 online interviews from January 27 – February 5, 2016, to secure a nationally significant representation. Forty percent of respondents were union members and 60 percent were not.

About the Author

Jason Knott
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Jason Knott:

Jason Knott is Chief Content Officer for Emerald Expositions Connected Brands. Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990, serving as editor and publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He joined CE Pro in 2000 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of that brand. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He has been a member of the CEDIA Business Working Group since 2010. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California.

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