Following in the footsteps of her electrician father, Betsy Ritch-Reed put on a hard hat and tool belt, and began an apprenticeship with the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) in the early 1980s.
As part of her on-the-job training, she assisted with specialized projects for the military in a pre-fabrication shop at Fort Benning, Georgia. After completing the Independent Electrical Contractors apprenticeship program, she worked as a licensed electrician for 11 years. In 1996, she took over her father’s business, Ritch Electric Co. Inc., in Columbus, Georgia. Today she oversees more than two dozen employees.
Betsy has helped train the next generation of electricians as an instructor at Columbus Technical College and as a substitute instructor for the IEC apprenticeship program. She continues to hire and train electrical apprentices for her own business, as well.
Her advice to the next generation: Stick to your goals. “Whatever career you choose, do not let anyone tell you that you can’t do it,” said Betsy. “If you believe you can do it, you can.”
Her 22-year-old grandson, Blaine Reed, has followed in the family footsteps and has nearly finished the four-year IEC apprenticeship. The program involves paid on-the-job training under the supervision of an IEC contractor, as well as 576 hours of classroom instruction learning about topics such as residential wiring, electrical theory, how to interpret the National Electric Code, and grounding and electrical design. Upon completion, graduates are certified as an electrician by the IEC and can apply their trade throughout the country.
Betsy’s success has been a model for Blaine, who has seen how the electrical trade can provide a fulfilling career and a good living.
“Societies need great electricians to build a connected and lighted world,” said Blaine, who likes working with robots. Like his grandmother, he is taking on-the-job training at Fort Benning. One day he also would like to own his own business – one that focuses on programmable logic controllers, which are specialized computers used to control robots and other kinds of electromechanical systems or processes.
The outlook for electricians is bright, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which projects the occupation will grow 9 percent between 2016 and 2026. The IEC estimates there is a shortage of nearly 100,000 electrical workers across the country. Learn more about how to become an electrician via the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook.
Eric R. Lucero is a deputy director in the department’s Office of Public Affairs in Atlanta, Georgia.