Fluke wanted to find out. Here are a few high points from a recent survey.
The survey reported that technical job growth had once again turned positive. Growth in HVAC and electrical jobs is projected to grow at two to three times the average rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook 2012-2013. Industrial plant technician jobs are projected to grow at the average rate, which is 11 percent.
Many employers report a shortage of qualified candidates for entry-level positions, and more than half of surveyed employers said candidates lack the experience to perform effectively on the job. Employers report that they are looking for “soft skills,” such as problem solving, in addition to hands-on experience and troubleshooting capabilities. This desire for experience presents a hurdle for recent graduates. However, it is an opportunity to educate and train a new cohort of industrial, electrical, and HVAC professionals. The universities, unions, and training centers surveyed report that an average of 2,117 hours of hands-on experience is all that is needed to graduate from their programs. Continuing education is also important, with 82 percent of surveyed professionals saying test tool knowledge was more important now than when they entered the field.
The make-up of the industry’s workers is set to undergo significant changes. While 72 percent of surveyed professionals are five years or more away from retirement, there are many Baby Boomers who will be retiring in the coming years. Some industries are already having trouble filling gaps left by retiring workers. The Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), says it needs 27,000 new workers each year to replace those retiring.
The survey of workforce trends, conducted by Fluke Corporation in June 2012, was completed by 1,608 professionals, educators, and employers. Interviews were also conducted with educators and union trainers, and third-party resources were consulted for trend data.