Kirkwood Community College working to address electrician shortage

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A shortage of workers across the country is forcing some companies to pay more for a particular trade.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says available jobs in the electrical industry will grow by 9 percent in the next seven years.

That could lead to thousands of shortages.

Dan Martin, the Dean of Industrial Technologies at Kirkwood Community College, said the demand outweighs the supply. Baby boomers are retiring faster than younger people are getting hired. A simple online search shows hundreds of open electrician jobs across eastern Iowa.

Workers at Kirkwood said they work hard to recruit students into the electrician field. They hold STEM camps to talk to them at an early age. Kirkwood also lets people know that it's a good paying job, and it can be rewarding.

Some companies are willing to pay extra to fill the demand.

“Whenever you actually wok the overtime that they're going to offer you at some point in time, you're easily in that $50,000 to $60,000 dollar per year range,” said Martin. “After a few years of experience and some pay raises, you can go even higher than that.”

"Especially in electrical work. When you know you're done, you can see something moving, something light up, something working because of you,” said David Jenner John who is an electrical mechanical maintenance student at Kirkwood Community College. “I think that sense of accomplishment really calls out.”

The college is also working to recruit more women. Right now, women only make up about 20 percent of the people in their technical programs. They want to get it to about 50 percent.

Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo offers apprenticeship training with local businesses. That can lead to some of their students being hired by those employers.