Talk the talk: spreading the word about the electrical industry
The electrical industry offers a great future for young entrepreneurs. Laser Group managing director Steve Keil shows how we can all spread the word.
There are headlines you’re not likely to see in the news, but they are real enough.
How about ‘Hairdresser makes $250 an hour’, or ‘Physio charges $325’.
So why are some media people obsessed with the hourly rate for electricians?
A hairdresser recently charged me $50 for a cut (which my wife assures me is cheap) and a physio charged me $65. Both said they have up to five clients an hour, all day.
Yet, for some reason, news organisations insist on reporting the typical hourly rate of an electrician as $90, as if our sense of fairness should be challenged.
Maybe people think it all goes into the sparkie’s pocket rather than towards costs associated with employment, insurance, tax, an appropriately decked-out vehicle, specialist tools, test and safety equipment, etc?
There’s a dad joke that asks: What’s the difference between a good and bad haircut? The answer: Two weeks.
The difference between a good and bad electrician isn’t at all funny.
Electricity is a miraculous servant and a dangerous master. Skilled electricians ensure that electricity is safely contained so that it can invisibly go about its work of powering our appliances and devices.
Electricians are worth every cent they are paid – and in my view a damn sight more.
Our industry is an exciting one that is largely future proof and supports entrepreneurship. Yet we are struggling to attract school leavers to take up apprenticeships, and this will lead to a shortage of trades people in future.
Society glamorises entrepreneurship, and our industry offers plenty of opportunity in that regard.
When school leavers think of entrepreneurship they tend to conjure up images of new tech industries. However, many young people dream of starting businesses that are generally of the same kind.
Too many people are trying to create the next big app, starting digital or social media marketing companies or becoming graphic designers. These and similar careers are saturated with competition and can be outsourced here or farmed out to low-cost economies.
We must encourage young Australians to consider exciting opportunities in the electrical industry, in which they can be entrepreneurs or highly valued employees with a secure future.
We all have relatives and friends with kids approaching the point in their education at which they are considering a career path.
Make a difference
Thousands of electrical industry people subscribe to this magazine, and you can each do your bit.
Have a chat with young people (and the parents) about entering the electrical industry to secure their future, and that of the country. You are an industry expert and they will listen to you. Daughters and sons will find this option to be a rewarding alternative to university.
I’m a strong believer in a university education, but it’s not for everyone. It doesn’t necessarily mean career success, let alone any kind of employment.
Here are some important points to guide your discussion.
1. The market is growing
The number of customers just keeps increasing, and estimates of the market’s value range up to $20 billion a year. Even better, the annual growth rate is a steady 1-1.5%. That may not seem like much, but it’s a lot of money if you factor in the size of the industry.
As the population rises the demand for housing and commercial property will also rise, taking electrical services with it.
Many other industry sectors are being disrupted by technology.
We will see the growth of machines and artificial intelligence in the coming years. A lot of people will lose their jobs and businesses will be at risk of collapse. The electrical industry is relatively safe for the foreseeable future. A robot that can work in cramped spaces, diagnose problems and repair faults is still a long way off, even on the theoretical level.
3. Positive disruption
The electrical industry is generally working the way it has always worked.
However, it is hungry for people with fresh approaches and new ideas. Something that makes it more convenient for customers to acquire electrical services will disrupt the whole industry. The best part is that entrepreneurial types won’t be competing with multi-billion dollar companies as in most other fields. Competition will be much more manageable, as the industry is highly fragmented.
4. The ‘internet of things’ revolution
Our industry isn’t just future proof, in many respects it brings the future into being.
In future, homes will operate on an IoT infrastructure.
We already have the smart home – think Siri, Google or even Amazon Alexa. The best part for entrepreneurs is that smart-home devices will be more integrated, requiring professional help with installation. Electricians are best equipped to handle this task.
Imagine the market’s growth rate once people start buying smart products en masse and want all their current devices integrated.
5. Green energy
IoT isn’t the only thing that will boost demand for electrical services. People are much more environment conscious now. They are upgrading their homes for increased efficiency, and even taking them off the grid, thanks to solar power and advances in battery storage.
There are also new laws and regulations limiting the emissions society creates. People will want their electrical systems to be more sustainable. And whose services will they need?
6. No outsourcing worries
Ours is an industry that requires qualified people to show up at the customer’s premises, so new entrants won’t be concerned about outsourcing or competition from cheaper labour.
It’s all good
Focusing on a trade is the smartest business move a young person can make as an entrepreneur.
It isn’t a thankless job either – our whole industry is based on solving people’s problems. Being a good trades person carries a lot of respect, both in the professional and personal spheres. Also, it doesn’t take a crazy amount of investment to start working in this field. New tradies will not need a huge storefront or expensive machinery, just the right tools for the job and a physical or virtual office.
There’s no better time to start a business in the electrical sector. The support is there – advice, coaching and low-cost, easy ways of marketing. A readily available cloud suite of products will track a business operationally and financially.
Once the business starts growing, additional investment can be made and more services offered to customers. Experienced trades people could no doubt list many more ways of encouraging people to join our industry, but the above six are a good starting point.
Take up the challenge and set someone on an exciting career path in the electrical sector.