By FLUKE CORP.
Finding Qualified New Hires Is Tough
Of employers surveyed, 85 percent report it is difficult to very difficult to find entry-level workers with acceptable skills. Industrial employers found it slightly harder (93 percent) than their electrical and HVAC counterparts (85 percent). 38 percent say candidates lack an applicable degree or certification; 53 percent say they lack enough years of on-the-job experience, with the average minimum required experience expected at 3.4 years.
Yet 95 percent of the educators and trainers surveyed said students that graduate from their programs possess enough skill using electrical tools to meet entry-level qualification.
New Hires Need Experience
Of the employers surveyed, 66 percent say their new hires have basic electrical test tool knowledge, but need more hands-on time. 95 percent say competency in basic electrical theory and electrical safety is a basic requirement to do the work and increases productivity on the job, while 75 percent expect knowledge of electrical panel troubleshooting.
Employers are also looking for soft skills, such as problem-solving ability, strong work ethic, attention to detail (all ranked at 14 percent), and the ability to be productive independently (12 percent).
Responses indicated a need for troubleshooting and problem-solving skills, compared to the lower-level requirements for installation tasks. 84 percent of industrial employers stated the ability to troubleshoot electromechanical equipment, such as motors and pumps, was important; 84 percent of HVAC employers stated the ability to maintain and troubleshoot motors, pumps and fans was important.
62 percent of the programs of the educators and trainers interviewed in the survey are two- or four-year programs. The educators and trainers in the survey report an average of 2,117 hours (just over one work year) of hands-on experience are required to graduate from their programs. Union programs require as much as 10,000 hours (five work years). 61 percent of educators said their program included on-the-job training.
97 percent of educators say their programs include hands-on training with electrical test tools. 40 percent of students surveyed say their hands-on training takes place in the field or on the job; 51 percent say it takes place in hands-on labs.
Why the different points of view between the employers and educators surveyed? While the study provides no data on employer hiring practices, a recent article from the Star Tribune may suggest an answer. The article notes that, despite a rise in demand for skilled workers, low pay scales have barely budged. Companies that have successfully survived the recession have become more specialized and hire workers with more skills at a higher wage.
Perhaps the graduates with 2,000 to 8,000 hours of experience are being hired by companies paying a higher wage, while the majority of employers in this study are trying to hire workers with very basic skills at the lowest possible hourly wage. This is worthy of future investigation.
There is also strong anecdotal evidence that new graduates are not able to employ their higher skill levels immediately out of school because they are put into menial, single-focused positions. So not only do they lose the skills gained in school through lack of use, but they also do not get the kind of rotational experience that would make them a valuable, in-depth employee.
Continuing Education as a Priority
While only 51 percent of employers provide official on-the-job training (on-boarding, mentoring, etc.), 64 percent of employees have participated in accredited continuing education. Of those, 62 percent of the continuing education was sponsored or paid for by their employers showing strong support for their employees’ continuing education. And many employers are willing to let employees use work time for their continuing education. 33 percent of continuing education during work hours was in person; 15 percent was online.
In June 2012, Fluke Corp. fielded a comprehensive, voluntary survey of industry professionals, educators and employers to study workforce trends to help ensure the Fluke Education Program matches today’s training needs. Survey invitations were sent by email to an extensive list of prospects. When it was closed in July, 1,608 people had completed the survey.
In addition, third-party resources (i.e. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Occupational Outlook Handbook 2012-2013) were tapped to provide supporting trend data. The goal of this research effort was to survey the views of test tool users, educators, trainees and hiring managers to determine current workforce trends.
 Adam Belz, “The skills gap: Myth or reality?,” Star Tribune, August 5, 2012