The construction industry is ripe with opportunities for career seekers – so much so it has identified as one of five fields with the highest demand in the Lincoln Trail region. There’s no better time for motivated individuals who enjoy working with their hands and having variety in their day-to-day routine to consider entering a career in a skilled trade in the construction industry.

There are a few reasons the workforce gap is widening. For one, skilled laborers are aging out daily. Tradespeople who have maintained steady jobs within the field for the last four or five decades are beginning to retire, causing an immediate need throughout the industry.

In addition, new technology is increasing the need for skilled labor. As CEO of IHG Consulting, an electrical contracting company, I think about solar panels, wind turbines and other alternative energy sources that have emerged in recent years. To harness that energy, electricians are in high demand — both residential and commercial. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the electrical trade is expected to grow at a rate of 9 percent through 2026. That means as many as 59,600 new laborers will be needed. The declining workforce and an increasing demand are providing an unparalleled opportunity for a new wave of workers to fill the gap.

Electricians aren’t the only construction professionals in high demand. Carpenters, pipefitters, welders, heavy equipment operators, painters — the list is diverse and lengthy. The sector has a great need for skilled tradespeople across the board in residential, industrial and commercial areas.

With the proper accreditation, an employee quickly can advance as a foreman, project manager, general contractor or even pursue higher education to become an engineer. The possibilities are endless for anyone motivated to do the work.

A trade career also offers a chance to begin earning money during the first year on the job instead of racking up college debt. Though a one-year trade school (usually $5,000-$10,000) is an option, anyone with a high school diploma or GED can apply for an apprenticeship. In the electrical trade, an apprentice trains with a master electrician for four to five years to earn a journeyman electrician certification.

Each year, 144 hours of the apprenticeship program will be in the classroom, while more than 2,000 hours will be on-the-job training with real-world clients, according to Independent Electrical Contractors.

Typically, apprentices are paid 40 to 60 percent of what a certified master makes, even while they continue to learn the trade. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median annual wage for electricians was $55,190 in May 2018.

Career seekers in the Lincoln Trail region have many talents to offer but they often need a guiding hand to steer them in the right direction, especially if they are joining the workforce for the first time.

At IHG Consulting, we partnered with the Independent Elec­trical Contractors Asso­cia­tion to help career seekers receive foundational training and find what they are looking for in the electrical trade through a state registered apprenticeship program.

Take Danielle Cope, for example. A highly motivated mother of one, Danielle has served as an apprentice with IHG Consulting over the last year while earning money for her family. At the end of her apprenticeship, she will be accredited as an electrician through Kentucky’s IEC Association. With her journeyman electrician status, she will have the ability to do virtually any job in the trade and advance quickly.

Businesses also benefit from work-based apprenticeship models. The profitability lies in developing laborers who are loyal to the company and already familiar with its style of work.

What better way to build team culture from the ground up, save on training costs and ensure job satisfaction for employees?

I encourage businesses to consider partnering with an apprenticeship program and help build the workforce of tomorrow.

If you are considering pursuing a career through a registered apprenticeship program, I highly recommend it. You’ll get the exact education you need, retain steady employment, and have endless opportunities for advancement.

In addition, IHG Consulting currently works with co-op students from Nelson County High School, and these work-based learning opportunities are a great way for businesses to develop talent for the future.

To learn more about careers in construction as well as other fields, go to the Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board’s video series, Your Career is Here, at ltcareercenter.org/career.

Julie Brown is CEO and safety director of IHG Consulting LLC and a member of the Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board.