The Labor Side of the Supply Chain

When thinking about the “supply chain” one rarely thinks about labor, rather it’s about getting the product to the job site at the right time with the right specifications.  The steps of this product supply chain are often well thought out, including establishing relationships with both distributors and manufacturers that one feels they can trust and rely upon when the time comes.

But without establishing relationships with trusted suppliers of labor, a contractor cannot meet the needs of the customer, in spite of having all the materials on the jobsite.  The dilemma a contractor faces on the labor, or workforce development side of the equation, differs drastically from the equipment or product side for a number of reasons.

First, a contractor can usually pick up the phone, put in an order for product and have a comfort level that the products will be available when needed.  There are certainly exceptions to this, but there are also normally other sources (distributors or manufacturers) to get the required products.  For the workforce, side of the supply chain, one normally is not able to pick up the phone and order the type of additional workers you’ll need to complete a job.

Right up front, I don’t want to disappoint you, but it’s important to state, that there is no “silver bullet” to developing a workforce.  Most of you that have been involved with the skilled trades for any period of time already know this, but what I would like to accomplish here is provide you with a framework and more tools to help solve this problem.  From all the statistics that we have seen, the workforce shortage in the skilled trades is only going to worsen as our current workers age and move into retirement.

What we’ll explore here is not only applicable for the large contractor who may have a recruiter on staff, but we will also look at some simple strategies and activities small contractors can also implement.  You may also have heard of some of these recommended activities before, but I also ask you to take a look at how many of them are you actively and consistently doing?

To start, let’s develop an overall workforce development plan.  Below is a basic plan that you can start with and modify according to your individual company needs.

First, you must define your company’s individual positions with a job description.  If you don’t have job descriptions, IEC has them available for you (call your chapter or national office) ranging from helper to superintendent.  You can then modify them to meet your individual needs.  Here’s an example of a typical range of positions you should list:

  • Helper
  • Apprentice
  • Electrician
  • Crew Leader
  • Foreman
  • Superintendent
  • Estimator
  • Project Manager

For the smaller contractor, you’ll combine some of these positions, while larger contractors will have many more steps or specializations.  The important part is that you are clear about the duties, and even of greater value, the skills that are needed for that position.  In this manner, when you begin your search, you’ll know exactly what you are looking for, and therefore recognize it when you find it.

Next, be clear that there are three basic areas from which to fill these positions:

  1. Entry level/helper position (always outside of the company)
  2. Upper Level from within the company
  3. Upper level from outside the company

With this in mind, you can set out on a strategy to fill positions in these three basic ways.  Let’s start with area one, entry level, and work our way up.  However, area three, filling upper level positions from outside your company, is both the most pressing and difficult area to fill.

Filling entry level positions within your company takes more of an investment in the process, and will also take longer to see the results.  However, once you have the process in place, it will continue to feed your workforce needs for years to come.   In talking with Tony Varamo, Workforce Development Coordinator for Metropower, he says, “I always try to hire entry level workers based upon a “cultural fit” with the company, which means the work ethic of the individual can be groomed by Metropower so that they become a life-time employee.”  This is very important to understand, because it will guide you to which primary strategy you will use to fill your workforce.  With that in mind, here’s a list of some ways to fill entry level positions, starting with the least amount of investment, and working your way up to more investment, or time, but greater return:

  • Referrals from current workers (this can also help with upper level positions) – consider paying a bonus to your workers whom refer good candidates to the company (watch the timing of the bonus; consider the level, and longevity of the referred candidate).
  • Utilize the services of the local IEC Chapter Office for candidates – this may vary according to each chapter’s level of budget and service.
  • Off course, place an ad in a local newspaper, trade publication or sports related news source.
  • Seek out other organizations that can supply pre-screened candidates.  Examples of these are Goodwill, Job corps, other local job prep groups and churches.
  • Establish a relationship with other cultural or non-profit organizations such as 4-H, Boy Scouts, Hispanic or other relevant groups in your area.
  • Create a Facebook (and/or Twitter) account for your company with the focus on job opportunities.   Then learn how to grow your followers and boost out your message.
  • Contact the local high school and offer to stop in and talk with students and assist the appropriate instructor.  You can also contact your local IEC chapter to help establish an in-house apprenticeship program at the school (some are already doing this).  This can be a significant ongoing feeder program to your workforce.

An important consideration when recruiting new workers, is that you will probably be dealing with the “Millennials,” those born between 1980 and the mid-2000s.  These are the largest generation in the US, representing one-third of the total U.S. population.  While this is a whole other discussion, it is important to understand the difference, including the values of this population as you focus on recruiting this age group.  For example millennials value balance in life, meaning family, work and play, and are sometimes referred to as the “me gerneration.”  They also value understanding why or how things work the way they do, and are turned-off with the “do it this way because I told you to” attitude. (Google Millennials for more information).

Area two, filling upper-level positions from within your company certainly takes time, but it also requires careful planning.  Many of these individuals will also be in the Millennial bracket, therefore understand what they value.

  • Communicate to your employees the value you have in education and learning (this is key, because if they don’t believe the company values education, they probably won’t either).
  • Offer an incentive program (tuition reimbursement, wage increase each year, etc..) to attend IEC’s Apprenticeship Program or other technical program.
  • If the worker has already completed an apprenticeship program, then most chapters offer continuing education classes.  If not available, suggest areas of training to the chapter or find other classes, including online learning for your workers.
  • Make sure all employees know the promotional career ladder of your company and utilize it to promote them.  Then make sure the other employees know about their achievements and promotions with announcements, newsletters and company meetings.

Area three, filling upper-level positions from outside your company presents a different set of challenges, but it can be the fastest and quickest way to grow your workforce, especially when you land that new big job.

  • Utilize IEC’s loan/borrow (shared manpower) program
  • Most IEC Chapters also offer a resume or employment referrals services to their members
  • Use a temporary agency not just for temporary workers, but to screen for new workers
  • Use a permanent employment agency.  Steven Mitchell, Placement Specialist at Tech USA, says “Many contractors don’t think of using a permanent staffing agency, but when a trusting relationship is established with your placement officer and the contractor, it becomes a very viable strategy to finding new skilled workers.”
  • On-line job search engines are available, such as and CareerBuilder
  • Veterans are one of the biggest areas that contractors can use to expand their workforce.  There are also tax breaks associated with hiring veterans.  To find veterans go to

Although this is not meant to be an exhaustive list of ways to solve the workforce shortage, it is meant to provide you with a framework and plan whereby you can strategically begin to consistently have workers available just as you do material.  Let’s hope that everyone is paying the same attention to the workforce side of the supply chain as they are to the product side – you certainly can’t meet the customer’s needs if both material and labor aren’t readily available.

7 Steps to Hiring Veterans

There are thousands of veterans exiting the eight Georgia military bases every month. Governor Nathan Deal provided an eye opening statistic, “60 to 80 thousand veterans will be returning to Georgia by 2016.” This population is one of the ways electrical members can find solutions to their workforce need.  Below are the steps you should consider to tap into this great market for electrical contractors.

  1. Prepare the Job Description – Does military experience count? What military positions are well suited for the position?
  2. Post the Job – Veteran websites are available to help.
    a. CareerBuzz.
    b. Hero2Hired.
    c. Operation Workforce.
  3. Review the Applications – Reference confusing terms or duty positions using a military skill translator and military rank tools.
    a. O*Net (military translator)
    b. Military Ranks
  4. Conduct the Initial Interview – Focus on character first, then skills. Have the candidate elaborate on military jargon. Select the best candidate with a 2 to 3 ratio, (hire 2 veterans, invite 3 to an internship.)
  5. Observe in the Workplace -Customize the veteran internship. Integrate aptitude assessments. Assign mentors. Provide feedback on performance.
  6. Conduct the Final Interview – Consolidate feedback from mentors. Provide an opportunity for veteran to talk about their intern experience.
  7. Make the Job Offer – Review the military pay and benefits website. Be aware of the “Band of Acceptability” – Service members are willing to accept up to a 22-27% decrease in pay as a result of their transition.
    a. Military Pay and Benefits websites
    i. DFAS
    ii. Housing allowance

Make the offer!

7 Top Ways to Find Electrical Workers

We have been “cautiously optimistic” about the economy, but if the hiring levels that we are seeing from our IEC members in Atlanta are any indication of the economy, then we are way beyond optimistic – we’re in high gear!
Here at the IEC we not only monitor hiring, we also provide services to our members in form of applicants for hire. The level of hiring that our members are experiencing has been steadily increasing since fall to levels that we’ve not seen since 2006!
With over 20 contractors hiring anywhere from a couple to 20 each at all levels, the IEC is just not able to keep up with demand. However, we want to help contractors with their hiring needs by providing them with some strategies that they can use to meet their workforce needs. Some of these are mostly likely already being used, but others may not be so evident to many contractors. Additionally, some of these strategies will be utilized for entry level, while others can be used for apprentice or electrician level workers. Whatever the needs are, a multi-pronged approached will reap the best results.
1) If you are not already a member of the IEC, join now, as we do have applicants ready and willing to work. This week alone we’ve had 6 applicants apply. To join IEC, go to in Atlanta Metro and outside of the metro area.
2) IEC members should review our applicants in our on resume service for those whom consider themselves electricians. IEC members must register on our website at to gain access to this members only are.
3) Register your company with Operation Workforce – a link can be found on our homepage at This site will allow you to search for veterans whom are exiting the military. There are thousands of veterans exiting the military every day from one of Georgia’s 8 military bases!  These individuals are your best bet for skilled workers.
4) Register your company with Go Build Georgia ( where thousands of high school students, as well as job seekers will see your company and your job openings.  This is another free service from the state of Georgia that seeks to match employers with job seekers.
5)  List your job openings with CEFGA ( – the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia.  CEFGA works with the skilled trades educators in high schools throughout the state.  So those students whom are now graduating high school will be looking for work.  Many of these students have already had pre-apprenticeship training in high school, and in many instances, work experience.
6)  Make use of social media – yes Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram!  Most contractors may think they are a waste of time (and they can be), however one way to reach out and spread the word about opportunities with your company are to develop and online presence.  The millenniums (ages 19-37) are much more likely to utilize social than either baby-bommers, or GenX. You can find both new workers and skilled workers using this strategy.
7)  Tap into the Hispanic population.  All the population and census data points to the rise in this population in the coming years, though I believe there are already plenty of willing workers in this population to help satisfy the demand – it just takes a bit of planning to put the right people in place, i.e, a bilingual supervisor.

There are certainly other strategies that you can utilize, but all of them take some planning and resources to put in place.  Without workers, it’s clear we can’t get the work completed, so it makes sense to put the proper resources in place now to meet the market demands.

Top 10 Significant Code Changes

By IEC Instructor, Terry Rogers

1. ARTICLE 110.21(B)(1)(2)(3) MARKINGS: New requirements for field applied labels, such as labels must be typed not handwritten.

2. ARTICLE 110.26(E)(2)(a)(b) SPACES ABOUT ELECTRICAL EQIPMENT: New requirements for outdoor dedicated equipment space is similar to indoor dedicated equipment space.

3. ARTICLE 210.8(D) GFCI PROTECTION: New requirement for dwelling unit outlet for a dishwasher to be GFCI protected.

4. ARTICLE 210.12 AFCI PROTECTION: So many revisions and new requirements for AFCI protection to mention. If you are a contractor, engineer, installer of dwelling occupancies, this by far is the most significant change.

5. ARTICLE 404.2(C) SWITCHES CONTROLLING LIGHTING LOADS: New revisions since first introduced in the 2011 NEC.

6. ARTICLE 422.23 TIRE INFLATION and AUTOMOTIVE VACUUM MACHINES: New code rule requiring GFCI Protection.

7. ARTICLE 450.10(A) DRY-TYPE TRANSFORMER ENCLOSURE GROUNDING and BONDING: New requirement for grounding/bonding terminal bar.

8. ARTICLE 555.15(B)(C) MARINAS and BOATYARDS GROUNDING: Come find out why ALUMINUM equipment grounding conductors perform just as well as copper conductors.

9. ARTICLE 600.6(A)(1) ELECTRIC SIGNS DISCONNECTS LOCATION: New requirement for Point of Entry to sign or pole.

10. ARTICLE 700.16 EMERGENCY ILLUMINATION: New requirement for emergency lighting at service equipment.

What Adjustments Should You Make As the Economy Continues to Improve?

We continue to get reports and see signs of an improved economy, which is what we’ve all been waiting and hoping for!  But as we continue with our cautiously optimistic economical revival, there also comes a whole new set of challenges.  What are some of the business operations that must be adjusted as continue with this up cycle?

1) If you’re not already recruiting and training new employees, do it now!  6 months ago the IEC had 30-40 excess apprentices in our program.  Now there are only a couple (we do have plenty of inexperienced people available).  IEC is recruiting heavier now than in the last 6 years, but each contractor must have their own active recruitment plan.

2) Look at your current workforce and determine who can move into a supervisory position.  Then, get them the training they need in management and leadership so they will have the skills to succeed in their new responsibilities.  Good technicians do not necessarily make good lead or supervisory employees, but with some training, they can learn the new skill sets that will be needed to make them successful.

3)  Update your cash flow projections.  It has been said that an uptick in the economy is when the greatness number of contractors will go out of business because they do not have the proper cash in place to ramp up for new jobs.

4)  Take your updated cash flow projections and meet with your banker, or other sources of cash, to assure that you will have the financing in place when you need it.

There are certainly other areas that may need to be evaluated, but you probably already know these areas, just as you have been through the “up” cycle, though it may have been awhile.

Finding Talent For and In the Electrical Field

As the construction industry continues (be it tepid) to rebound, finding skilled workers will become increasing difficult.  In fact, the labor shortage that we experienced in the mid 2000’s will pale in comparison to what we will face in the next several years.

With that in mind, there are really only two strategies you can use to grow your workforce:  train new employees or find experienced workers.  These two approaches are certainly not mutually exclusive, nor is one right and one wrong; however companies tend to favor one over the other.

Many contractors will say that they prefer to train the workers themselves from entry level so they have the right skills and knowledge.  This is a great philosophy; however, based upon your manpower needs, you may not always have the time to send them through a 4 year electrical apprenticeship program.

Let’s acknowledge that there is no one “silver bullet,” therefore, the chart below provides some ideas to fulfilling your manpower needs in finding both new workers and skilled workers already in the electrical industry.  No matter what strategy and methods you use to find workers, the most important aspect of the process is to have a well thought out plan for workforce development, and then give it priority by working the plan.

As you review this chart, you will probably notice that many ideas are technology related because more and more, our society and job hunters, are moving to handheld mobile devices (phones & tablets) to stay connected in their everyday lives.

$2,500 Fines/Employee Coming From OSHA Soon!

Anyone in construction will know about MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet), but few are aware that OSHA is modifying the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to align with the provisions of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) that was officially adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 2003. Here we are a full ten years later, and it will actually take affect with a stinging $2,500 fine to contractors for each employee who does not: 1) recognize the symbol, and 2) know the appropriate action to take beginning December 1, 2013.
Why adopt the new GHS?
It was designed to replace various classification and labeling standards used in different countries by using consistent criteria for classification and labeling on a global level. While those systems in different countries may have been similar in content and approach, they resulted in multiple standards and classifications and labels for the same hazard in different countries. Given the extent of international trade in chemicals, and the potential impact on neighboring countries when controls are not implemented, it was determined that a worldwide approach was necessary.
What are the major proposed changes to the Hazard Communication Standard?
• Hazard classification: Provides specific criteria for classification of health and physical hazards, as well as classification of mixtures.
• Labels: Chemical manufacturers and importers will be required to provide a label that includes a harmonized signal word, pictogram, and hazard statement for each hazard class and category. Precautionary statements must also be provided.
• Safety Data Sheets: Will now have a specified 16-section format.
• Training on label elements must include: Product identifier; Signal word; Pictogram; Hazard statement(s); Precautionary statement(s); and Contact of manufacturer, distributor or importer.
Who does it affect?
It is estimated to affect over 40 million workers in 5 million workplaces for any consumers, workers or transporters of hazard materials. Other U.S. Agencies involved include the Dept. of Transportation (DOT), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Consumer Product Safety Commissions (CPSC). Check the OSHA website for details at
What About Training?
The focus of training is to recognize and interpret label and/or SDS information, and to take appropriate action in response to chemical hazards. OSHA has many sources for a variety of jobsites, however the IEC (Independent Electrical Contractors) has developed a GHS web resource page at This also includes a “train-the-trainer” webinar and other useful training information including toolbox talks so that you may document the GHS training that you perform for your employees.

5 Tips for Exceptional Customer Service That Lead to Greater Revenue, Regardless of the Type of Work

Let’s face it, as consumers, when we buy something, be it fast food, a new gun, or even a car or home, we want, and event expect good customer service.  And the more we spend, the more we expect good, if not exceptional customer service.  But what does good customer service mean to you?  In it’s most basic form, it comes down to good, plain courteous manners, with a good dose of respect through in.  Think about some of your experiences both good and bad, and I think you’ll agree that good manners and respect have either been exceptional or lacking all together.  Let’s take it a bit further, and extend it out to the job site and throughout the entire company.

Tip #1:  “Please, thank you, yes sir, no sir, and it’s my pleasure” are all basic manners that people will notice.  This should be clear in any new employee orientation and must be modeled by all supervisors when interacting with employees.

Tip #2:  All employees most dress for success, not just the office staff.  Our employees represent the company from the way the phones are answered to the line workers on job sites.  Clean clothes, well-groomed and good hygiene are key to representing the company in a positive and respectful manner.

Tip #3:  The leadership and management of the company must make sure that they not only care about the safety and welfare of all employees, but clearly communicate this to their employees.  If employees don’t feel valued, then how will they act on job sites?

Tip #4:  Create a culture of high expectations from your employees.  This can be accomplished by setting goals, providing training for skills enhancement, and clearly communicating expectations to them.

Tip #5:  Make sure that all employees follow through with what is promised to the customer.  This can easily be accomplished by simply asking the customer if they are happy with what has been provided to them.  If they are not happy, then find out what will make them happy and deliver on the promise as quickly as possible.

Profiting from the Davis-Bacon Act: Are You Making One of the Top Three Deadly Mistakes on the Prevailing Wage Rate?

Mistake #1:  Paying the full prevailing wage rate versus a percentage of the rate based upon the experience level of the worker, which can be as low as 60% less PER HOUR!  Assume the prevailing wage rate is $30/hour, you could be saving $18 per hour!  How do you save the $18 per hour, per person?  You must have your workers signed up in a registered apprenticeship program such as the one offered by the Independent Electrical Contractors, the IEC.

Mistake #2:  Paying the full fringe amount versus $1 per hour.  Additionally, if you are already providing some benefits like paid time off, health insurance or pension, then you can deduct that amount from the required $1 per hour when your workers are in a registered apprenticeship program like the IEC’s.  There are a few other mistakes that you need to avoid around the benefit amount – I’ll cover this in a subsequent post.

Mistake #3:  Delaying the start date of the registered apprenticeship for your workers until the start of classes.  Registered apprenticeship has two components:  classroom related instruction and on-the-job-training.  Most contractors wait until the start of the classroom related instruction to register apprentices, but registration can start once the on-the-job-training begins.  Contact your local IEC office and ask their professional staff how to get workers registered right away.

Check back often to gain more powerful tips on profiting from the Davis-Bacon Act, or post your questions here.  If you would like to get personal updates delivered to your email in box, sign-up in the upper right corner.