The Shortage of Qualified Workers – What can be done?

Unemployment and layoff statistics continue to plague industry and are consistently making the news headlines.

The Shortage of Qualified Workers – What can be done

 

The Industry Dilemma

 

Unemployment and layoff statistics continue to plague industry and are consistently making the news headlines. It may seem hard to believe but, despite national unemployment rates that often hover near double digits, many industries are experiencing worker shortages; workers who are well-trained and qualified. Some industries report that, despite an abundant labor pool, they still have positions for which they can't find qualified candidates to fill. According to a trade’s shortage survey, skilled-trade jobs, which include electricians, are the hardest jobs to fill.

 

Researchers say the nation's postsecondary education system can't keep pace with projected job growth. Information published in an article in the U.S. News & World Report, by Allie Bidwell, on July 8, 2013, titled “Report: Economy Will Face Shortage of 5 Million Workers in 2020” expresses serious concerns about the economic impact of the qualified worker shortages in the years to come. Select portions of the article are quoted below:

 

“As the economy continues to slowly recover and millions of job openings are expected to appear over the next decade, there is a growing call for more educated workers to fill those positions. But the current higher education graduation rate is stagnant, and the economy will face a shortage of 5 million workers with the necessary education and training by 2020, according to a study from researchers at Georgetown University.

 

Over the next several years, 55 million jobs will become available, researchers at Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce found in a study. The majority of those jobs will require some sort of education and training after high school, but without major changes to the nation's postsecondary education system – which includes community colleges, four-year institutions, and technical and career schools – there will not be enough workers to fill those positions, the report says.

 

"If we look at how many degrees we are conferring per year and compare that to the job openings, there's a disconnect," says Nicole Smith, a co-author of the report. "We have no reason to believe there will be a huge increase in graduation rates."

 

The researchers' job growth prediction is a middle-of-the-road estimate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be 163.5 million jobs in 2020, while Macroeconomic Advisors predicted 168.1 million, according to the report.

 

"The move toward making people both college-and-career-ready essentially amounts to finding ways to ... help develop a flexible, adaptable individual with the skills appropriate for surviving in the 21st century," the report says.”

 

Education Requirements

 

Many skilled-trade positions fall into the "middle-skills" or “blue-collar” job category, and are jobs that do not necessarily require a four-year degree, yet do require some education or training beyond high school. The shortage of qualified workers has been largely attributed to the lack of additional training and education beyond high school. Additional training programs are designed to attract high school students to the community or technical colleges and trade schools that provide programs for these workers, to get them started as an Apprentice Electrician or to prepare them to take the Journeyman or Master License exams. Most skilled trades require additional training, much of which can be done during a paid apprenticeship program, which many companies offer to their employees. Skilled trades can also be a good career option for advancement in a company to Foreman, Supervisor, Manager, or Inspector.

 

Are Qualified Worker Jobs Currently Available

 

There is literally hundreds of Journeyman Electrician jobs posted on the Internet every day. If a person wants to be an electrician, but they lack the experience and/or license, there is also hundreds of Apprentice Electrician jobs posted. Below are two typical postings (the real names and locations were changed, however they are actual company ads):

 

1)    XYZ Company

 

Job Description:

 

XYZ Company is currently hiring Journeyman Electricians. We are looking to fill over 200 positions due to continued growth in our area.

 

Relocation assistance is available for the right candidate.

 

If you are a skilled and motivated Electrician interested in joining a growing company that promotes from within, then we want you to APPLY NOW!

 

Why work for XYZ Company? Here are some great reasons!

 

Benefits:

 

·       Top Compensation based on experience!

·       Medical, Vision, Dental and Prescription Drug Coverage

·       Flexible spending accounts

·       Life, AD&D, Short and Long Term Disability Insurance

·       Employee Assistance Program

·       401K Retirement Plan

·       Vacation and Holiday Pay

 

Responsibilities:

 

As a Journeyman Electrician you will be responsible for electrical installations, troubleshooting, and maintenance of the commercial and industrial settings. Additional responsibilities will be required based on your experience and journeyman status upon hire.  Experience in mission critical systems, data centers, large 480V distribution and medium-voltage distribution equipment and systems are a plus.

 

Job Requirements:

 

As a Journeyman Electrician with XYZ Company you must meet the following minimum requirements:

 

·       At least 5 years of experience as an electrician

·       Must have an State Journeyman’s license or be willing and able to test for one

·       Must have a High School Diploma or GED

·       Must be willing to work a flexible schedule including days, evenings, weekends

·       Must be willing to work overtime as required

 

2)    ABC Company

 

Needed immediately, commercial and industrial Journeyman and Apprentice Electricians

 

ABC Company is seeking experienced electricians for immediate openings in our area. Other locations throughout the state are available as well. To be considered for employment all applicants must meet the minimum criteria identified below:

 

·       Able to bend install conduit / know all conduit strapping requirements

·       Able to pull and install wire / understanding of circuitry and color codes

·       Own and carry hand tools / bags / cordless drill/ hacksaw etc.

·       Able to install / wire lighting fixtures

·       Able to work well with others

·       Reliable transportation

·       Able to work overtime

 

If you meet these requirements please send us your resume by email or Fax to 1-800-555-5555. Resumes are required in any format. Only qualified applicants will be considered.

 

These two postings are similar to hundreds of postings on the Internet for trained and qualified electricians.

 

Statistics

 

The emphasis in this presentation has been centered on qualified, skilled workers. The reason for this is because of the high number of fatal and non-fatal injuries that occur at an alarming rate. This section will address a few of these cases, in order to help reinforce the qualified person requirements that are in the next section.

 

With the lack of qualified person training, electrical safety programs and procedures, and personal protective equipment, injuries and fatalities will occur when an electrical incident takes place. The following are incidents that did occur and the cost of each incident is also provided:

 

Case #1:

 

Georgia: OSHA fined a company $40,600 for nine “serious” safety and health violations that exposed workers to electrical, fall, and noise hazards. The Agency had previously inspected the business after a complaint was filed. The violations include the employer’s failure to provide workers with training to protect themselves from moving machine parts during servicing and maintenance activities and for exposing workers to fall hazards, the news release states. The company also failed to institute a monitoring and training program for noise exposure to prevent permanent hearing loss from unsafe noise levels, according to the news release."

 

Case #2:

 

Arkansas: OSHA cited a company for 10 serious safety violations after an employee was electrocuted while performing repair work on a machine at the company’s work site. The proposed penalties total $61,400. “Exposing workers to electrocution hazards without proper safeguards and training is inexcusable,” said the Agency’s area director. “It is the employer’s responsibility to create a safe and healthful workplace where preventable hazards don’t cost workers their lives.”

 

Case #3:

 

Connecticut: OSHA cited a company for alleged repeat and serious safety violations related to lockout/tagout, electrical safety, and combustible dust and have issued $56,430 in proposed fines. According to OSHA the inspection found the facility at fault for similar hazards the company was cited for at another facility. The repeat hazards include alleged failure to provide a program to ensure workers are trained to power down and lock out industrial saws before conducting maintenance, failure to provide a chemical hazard communication program and training on the risks and safeguards associated with chemicals and failure to prevent usage of unapproved electrical equipment in areas that generate combustible wood dust. The company received eight repeat violations for these conditions.

 

Case #4:

 

New York: A company has reached a settlement with OSHA resolving litigation surrounding the electrocution death of an employee. Under the agreement, the company will pay a fine of $147,000 and make changes to its electrical safety training program. The OSHA Regional Administrator commented, “While no settlement can bring this worker back to his family, co-workers, and friends, this agreement can help prevent similar and needless tragedies in the future.” The fatality occurred when a field technician came into contact with an energized power line as he worked from an aerial lift bucket. OSHA determined that field technicians were not adequately trained, did not wear proper protective gloves, and did not ground the suspension strand they were installing.

 

Case #5:

 

Nebraska:  OSHA cited a company for six safety violations, including one repeat, for failing to properly adjust or provide adequate machine guarding and electrical safe work practices. Proposed penalties of $91,300 resulted from the inspection program for high-hazard general industry establishments. “The company has a responsibility to recognize the hazards that exist in the workplace and ensure equipment is properly adjusted and maintained,” said OSHA’s Area Director. A total of four serious violations were cited, including failing to maintain bench grinders and improper storage of oxygen cylinders. The other two involve electrical safe work practices, including improperly marked circuit breakers and not effectively closing unused openings in electrical boxes. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

 

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these safe conditions are provided for America’s working men and women, by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

 

Save Money

 

OSHA’s program, $afety Pays, estimates that “every year workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths cost our nation $170 billion. That's money that businesses can save and pain workers can avoid. How can you save money while improving safety and health in your facility? One study estimated that a good safety and health program can save $4 to $6 for every $1 invested. That's because injuries and illnesses decline. Workers' compensation costs go down. Medical costs decrease. There are other, less quantifiable benefits as well - reduced absenteeism, lower turnover, higher productivity and increased morale.

 

There are direct and indirect costs related to all accidents. Direct Costs are medical costs and indemnity payments. Indirect Costs refer to production time lost by the injured employee, fellow workers and supervisors; spoiled product, unhappy customers; cleanup time; schedule delays; training new employees; overhead costs; legal fees and an increase in insurance costs.

 

OSHA has a computer program that is free of charge to all employers. This program is provided to assist you in determining how much accidents are costing your company. (Website address: http://www.osha.gov/dts/osta/oshasoft).

 

The OSHA $afety Pays program also estimates the sales that would be required in order to pay for an accident:

 

If your profit margin is:

Total Cost
of Accident

1%

2%

3%

4%

5%

$1,000

$100,000

$50,000

$33,000

$25,000

$20,000

$5,000

$500,000

$250,000

$167,000

$125,000

$100,000

$10,000

$1,000,000

$500,000

$333,000

$250,000

$200,000

$25,000

$2,500,000

$1,250,000

$833,000

$625,000

$500,000

$100,000

$10,000,000

$5,000,000

$3,333,000

$2,500,000

$2,000,000

 

$afety Pays $uccess $tories

 

Company #1 experienced a reduction in their Workers' Compensation premium. In one year the premium was $186,000 and it was reduced to $128,000 the following year. Their lost time days went from 2,642 in the first year to 76 in the second year. Because of the increased safety awareness, they anticipate this trend will continue.

 

Company #2 is also receiving benefits from their safety improvements. Their Experience Modification Ratio (EMR) and Workers' Compensation premiums are changing. Their EMR for the first year was a positive 23.9% which changed to a negative 25.1% in second year. They received a 5% discount in their Workers' compensation premiums the second year.

 

Company #3 reduced their LWDII rate from 45.9 in the first year to 3.7 at the end of the third year. In the first year, injuries accounted for nearly 1500 lost workdays and in the third year that number was reduced to 87. At the end of the third year the company received a Workers' Compensation refund of $196,000.

 

OSHA and NFPA Qualified Person Mandates

 

This presentation has addressed several issues dealing with trained, skilled, qualified workers. This section will address the definition and training requirements for a qualified person, as required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

 

The OSHA definition of a “qualified person” is found in 29 CFR 1910.399 Definitions, and states:

 

“One who has received training in and has demonstrated skills and knowledge in the construction and operation of electric equipment and installations and the hazards involved.

 

Note 1 to the definition of ‘‘qualified person:’’ Whether an employee is considered to be a ‘‘qualified person’’ will depend upon various circumstances in the workplace. For example, it is possible and, in fact, likely for an individual to be considered ‘‘qualified’’ with regard to certain equipment in the workplace, but ‘‘unqualified’’ as to other equipment. (See 1910.332(b)(3) for training requirements that specifically apply to qualified persons.)

 

Note 2 to the definition of ‘‘qualified person:’’ An employee who is undergoing on-the-job training and who, in the course of such training, has demonstrated an ability to perform duties safely at his or her level of training and who is under the direct supervision of a qualified person is considered to be a qualified person for the performance of those duties.”

 

NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, 2015 edition provides a similar definition of a “qualified person” as found in Article 100 Definitions, and states:

 

One who has demonstrated skills and knowledge related to the construction and operation of electrical equipment and installations and has received safety training to identify and avoid the hazards involved.

 

Take note that these definitions require training in order to be classified as a qualified person. OSHA provides specific “minimum” training requirements in several regulations, including 1910.332, 1910.269(b), 1910.132(f), 1910.147(c)(7), as well as others. NFPA 70E-2015, Section 110.2, Training Requirements also provides specific training requirements for qualified persons.

 

Summary

 

There are, and will be in the foreseeable future, a shortage of qualified electrical workers in all type of industry, which includes industrial, commercial, residential, and utility maintenance, along with these same shortages in construction.

 

The costs associated with incidents, accidents, injuries, and fatalities are staggering. As noted earlier, every year workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths cost our nation $170 billion. That's money that businesses can save and pain workers can avoid.” The cost of performing a hazard analysis and risk assessment of the facility, providing qualified worker training programs, developing electrical safety programs and procedures, and purchasing all required personal protective equipment is, in the long run, much more cost effective than having an employee injury or fatality.

 

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