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Aug 19, 2021 IST Team

How to Select An Electrical Staffing Agency

Searching for the right electrical staffing agency can be a are some questions you should be asking

When you are type into Google a search something like, "electrician staffing near me", you may searching for a reputable agency that can help you source qualified electricians for your job to be done.

What's driving your search for an electrical staffing agency?

Almost always, you are on the hunt for new help either because of a shortage or challenge on a current job or because your current agency failed to deliver on the last project. Sometimes you are searching for an electrical staffing agency because you've been to the staffing agency a couple of times in the past and came up dry. It's obvious that you have to deepen the bench before you need it again. 

But more often than not, you may have more work than you can handle, which is a great problem to have. Unfortunately, you will be making the decision not to take projects and grow because you lack the man power.

The big challenge is finding an agency that actually knows how to vet electricians at a deeper level than just checking the box for standard skills or certifications. The old saying, "it takes one to know one", is true when it comes to finding electricians that are experienced in the kind of project you are running. There is a big difference between the experience of building out a solar facility versus what an electrician might know from work on a distribution center. You need an agency that knows what to ask, and how to listen between the lines for the answers that identify the right experience.

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What's the difference between generalist agencies and those with the chops to deliver qualified electricians?

Agencies that staff everything from secretaries to painting crews have a big challenge: they can't know all of the nuances of every trade. That means when they find and interview electricians, they're working from a standard set of questions without actual knowledge of the real skillsets. 

A staffing agency that is focused on a more narrow niche in the trades will by nature provide better staff. They not only know what to ask, but they have developed networks of tradesmen with the skills you actually need.

Looking deeper than the basics of electrical staffing

Any agency can start with the basics of electrical staffing. Electrical staffing looks for those who can meet basic skill criteria:

  • Math, including algebra, in dealing with wattage, amperage,  and voltage
  • People/business skills with communication
  • Safety protocols
  • Power/hand tools
  • Testing before touching. This should be a given!
  • Excellent problem-solving
  • Schematics reading/comprehension

The certification process for an electrician varies from state-to-state such as exam requirements or hours, but it can be distilled into three separate levels of mastery:

  1. Apprenticeship: This involves on-the-job experience with a supervisor that normally lasts four years (about 8,000 hours). An apprenticeship includes hundreds of classroom hours revolving around electrical science and theory.
  2. Journeyman License: A journeyman license is only achieved after completing the apprenticeship program as well as passing the Electrical Journeyman exam.
  3. Master Electrician License: Finally, a journeyman electrician can become a master electrician by working for two years (about 4,000 hours) as a journeyman electrician and passing the Master Electrician Exam.

Licensure is helpful but really doesn't go far enough to understand how familiar the electrician for your solar project is with using SCADA/DAS systems, or the OEM standards for battery installation.

Criteria you may want to vet with your agency includes:

  • Can the electrician install components
  • Can they run & bend conduit
  • Can they pull wire
  • Can they terminate
  • What are their individual, unique competencies?

6 key things to ask the agency that will interview your electricians

Here are some of the questions you can use to make sure that the agency you are talking with can deliver electricians

  1. Ask about the number of projects the agency has staffed in the specific project type.
  2. Ask the number and type of electricians the agency has staffed in the specific project type.
  3. Talk about the vetting process they use and who actually does the vetting for the agency.
  4. Ask about the hiring experience of the specific recruiters who are currently employed by the agency and who will likely be helping to fill your needs.
  5. Discuss what happens if the electrician is not the right fit, and what the agency will do to backfill a miss-hire.
  6. What does the agency do differently for employees to keep them happily working on site for the duration of the project?

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The advantages of hiring electrical temp agencies with the right focus

The key advantages of hiring electrical temp agencies that focus on electricians include:

  • Reducing the amount of time that it takes for a generally qualified electrician to get up to speed on a new project type. This is a major factor in how productive the contracted tradesman will be on your job.
  • Safety and quality issues are reduced when the agency that you use has actual expertise in the trade and projects you are staffing.
  • Challenges with a temp are greatly reduced when the staffing agency that supports them understands the needs and challenges of electrical work and the specific project type you are running.

More Tips on How to Select the Electrical Staffing Agency That's Right for Your Project

Know Your State Regulations

A variety of states have multiple specialty journeyman, master electrician, and/or electrical contractor licenses. These each come with their own unique set of requirements. Other states have reciprocal electrician licenses, which allow working over state lines. Your agency should supply an electrician who has the correct certification needed for the job.

In our state of Illinois, we do not have a regulatory licensing board overseeing electricians. Instead, licenses are issued at the local government level by municipalities. This means that you should look for an agency that is certified in your area. Additionally, separate licensing is needed for those that install or maintain burglar and fire alarm systems.

Make Sure The Bench is Qualified

In the same vein as state licensures and certifications (sometimes the terms being used interchangeably based on the state the electrician is in), make sure the bench is qualified for your specific task. For example, there's a difference between Wind Turbine Electrician (or wind tech), Telecommunications Line Installer and Repairer, and Electrical Inspector.

The wind tech will be subject to working in remote areas, sometimes at a height of 200 feet or more. If you have an electrician that is only used to wiring warehouses and is afraid of heights, you may not want them on the job for working on your wind turbines.

Read Reviews and Social

This should be an obvious choice, but one that many neglect. After all, hearing a good sales pitch or getting snowed over by elegant, yet undocumented content can sometimes dilute our senses about whether or not an agency is the real deal.

If you consider hiring this agency you have been researching, here are some questions to answer:

  • Do they have an online presence? If not, do they have a credible word of mouth so much so that you'd hire them right on the spot? (Otherwise, try to steer clear of operations that you struggle to find online.)
  • What do their reviews look like across social: Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.? Do some digging on Glassdoor, and type in the agency name and see what Google's autocomplete pops up. If it says something to effect of "problems" or "challenges", then you may want to reconsider.
  • Where can you find reviews? Read both positive and negative reviews to get a consensus

Make Your Specific Needs Heard

The biggest mistake when looking for a new agency with a search is "electrical staffing near me" is not to specify exactly what you need. Get specific with the work involved in the phase of the job where you plan to bring in contracted tradesmen.

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Published by IST Team August 19, 2021
IST Team