Help Wanted: Electrical contractor offers free on the job training
SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - From heating and cooling to carpentry and electrical, workers in the trades are hard to find these days. As part of our ongoing series on high-demand jobs, our Kayla Martin visited a local electrical company to find out how they are coping.
Tony Odrechowski, an electrician with Lakeside Electric in South Burlington is checking the connection between some wires. “I go around, I make repairs, I troubleshoot, I install new things,” Odrechowski said.
He works industrial, commercial, and residential jobs. On this day he’s explaining to a homeowner how he knows when a wire is safe to work on. “That is the wire that’s dead, okay,” Odrechowski explained.
He’s passionate about his job and likes to keep customers in the loop. But Odrechowski wasn’t always an electrician. “I used to do tree work and I had an injury,” he said. “I realized what I was doing was more of a youthful game.” He says he wanted a career he could grow into. “Thought I’d try it and see if it worked out, and I really like it.”
But the industry needs more people like Odrechowski. Darlene and Mark LaClair own Lakeside Electric. They say the average age of an electrician is between 50 and 55-years-old. “They’re going to be getting older, so it’s really critical to get the next generation skilled with what master electricians are doing today,” Darlene said.
She says there’s a stigma surrounding the trades and thinks schools should change that. “I think the schools don’t have enough trades opportunities like they used to,” Darlene said. In order to get young workers in the door, Lakeside Electric teaches them themselves. “It’s a four-year program which we pay for and they get paid on-the-job training... $15, $16 an hour with absolutely no experience. Then you can quickly move up. We will recognize hard work and commitment.”
The typical hours are 7:30 to 3:30, but some days are longer than others. “They work till 9 o’clock at night sometimes to finish jobs,” Darlene said. “Now you have people that don’t have power, you can’t just leave,” Darlene said.
And they’re not just looking for new electricians. Skilled electricians are in demand, too. “We have master electricians that make $35 an hour. We have great bonuses,” Darlene said.
They also need those skilled workers to help train others. Right now, state regulations only allow one apprentice per licensed employee. LeClair says that makes it tough for smaller companies to invest in the future. “We have approached them about that -- the state. If they’re so worried that there are not enough workers out there, they could soften the rules up to help out,” Darlene said.
But for now, there’s a backlog of work. “Anybody in my industry, it’s so difficult to get somebody to come within 30 days. Some of them are 60 days, 90 days,” Darlene said. “That could hold up a business from opening, that could hold up a renovation to a house.”
Mark LeClair says they are looking for potential employees who work quickly and think ahead. “Really, those are the big things that I look for,” he said.
Odrechowski’s advice for job seekers... “Any of the trades would be great to get into. Mostly because you’re not gonna be without work,” he said.
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