By Diane Sears
Like the rest of the United States, Central Florida is experiencing a shortage of skilled electricians – a situation that is made more complicated by a steady and growing number of construction projects in the region.
Almost two years ago, Florida Technical College began offering a special program to train people to be electrician helpers, who can work their way up to becoming licensed electricians. Recently, the college put even more emphasis on the program by announcing it will offer a version of its curriculum completely in Spanish, partly to accommodate workers who are relocating from Puerto Rico and Latin American countries.
“With the devastation in Puerto Rico right now, we anticipate that in the next few months or years you’re going to get a lot of people leaving the island, and they will be looking for new skills,” said Robert Cruz, who oversees the program as the lead electrical instructor.
Cruz pointed out that the opportunities are greater today than they were 25 years ago when he started his career. He became a union electrician in New Jersey and has a master’s degree in education from William Paterson University. But electricians don’t have to earn academic degrees to be highly successful in their field, he remarked.
In FTC’s program, students attend four to five hours a day, depending on the coursework they are completing, four days a week. They learn basic wiring, pipe bending, motor controls, and other skills. Graduates have found full-time jobs as electrical helpers. They are working on everything from fire and security systems to power substations.
According to Cruz, there simply are not enough electrical workers to go around. “You can’t drive two miles in Orlando or Kissimmee without seeing some kind of construction,” he said. “Employers are looking for qualified personnel, and that demand can’t be filled without adding new workers to the job force. Many job sites are short-handed.”
In the annual State of the Industry survey Klein Tools released in April 2017, nearly 7 of every 10 electricians who responded indicated they are concerned about the skills gap in the U.S. labor market. Nearly 95 percent said they think more should be done to promote skilled trades as a career option for young people. The results were from a survey of 600 electricians, including 40 percent union members and 60 percent nonunion workers. More results are available at www.kleintools.com/2017survey1.
A Florida Trend magazine article published online in November titled, “Bridging Talent Gap, Growing Opportunities in Florida Through Apprenticeships”, reported that statewide, there are more than 232,000 jobs available. Some positions are going unfilled because of the skills gap, according to the magazine.*
The Spanish-language electrical program will be offered at the FTC’s Kissimmee and Pembroke Pines campuses, where 75 to 80 percent of the students coming through the program speak Spanish as their first language. Cruz hired a Spanish-speaking instructor and arranged for textbooks and other classroom materials to be translated from English. The electrical program is also offered in English in three FTC campuses: Kissimmee, Pembroke Pines and DeLand.
Each class can have up to 25 students. Cruz pointed out that many of the applicants are just coming out of high schools, but others are looking for a career change or a way to increase their earning potential.
“It’s a life-changing experience,” Cruz said.
*Dennard, M. (2017, November 27). Bridging talent gap, growing opportunities in Florida through apprenticeships. Florida Tred. Retrieved from http://www.floridatrend.com/print/article/23484
Program Availability varies by campus. Important information about the educational debt, earnings, and completion rates of students who attended our programs available at www.ftccollege.edu/disclosures.html