I was accepted to the union in '91. Work was slow and the amount of work continued to decline throughout the late 90's. '97 and '98 (when I "topped out") were the worst - until now, where it is equally horrible. Apprentices have the benefit of being "cheap labor" and generally in demand - BUT, I have heard of instances where NO apprentices were accepted in a given year due to a grim economic forecast (either present or anticipated).
In NJ, the earlier part of '00 to early '04 were considered a "boom" period. The past year has seen a decline in the number of major new projects coming up. However, the iron workers hall is a "walk through" - which means there is lots of steel going up. This is evident in some areas. One of the largest projects that has been given a "green light" (was just issued the final permit of acceptance by the Army Corp. of Engineers) is the Xanadu Mills project.
There are also many other large projects that will be starting in the foreseeable future. All will have a bearing on the national electrical(and construction markets). In my opinion, the largest will be the rebuilding of lower Manhatten. Other large projects that could contribute to a rosy work picture:
- Newark, NJ ~ Stadium
- NYC ~ Stadium
- NYC ~ Olympic bid for 2012
Along with these projects, you must also consider the available workforce...which is retiring(sp?). Result - more demand for qualified persons. www.state.nj.us/cgi-bin/governor/njnewsline/view_article.pl?id=2274 www.bls.gov/oco/ocos206.htm
Union or non-union (and this thread is not meant to start the "great debate"), the economic future for an electrcian looks pretty good. The federal site listed above states: "Employment of electricians is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2012". By "faster than the average" they indicate an INCREASE of 21 to 35 percent - which is good for EVERYONE. What one sector does not pick-up, the other will - the demand will be there.
It would seem that now is a good time to be a sparkey - or become one!
Even if NOT accepted, go work for someone in this field. I started out in a "non-union" shop - and worked in many for many years. I learned a lot in those years. The "classification" I had then would be considered a "residential wireman" (Class B). The work I do for the union, now, is mostly industrial and commercial (Class A). Much of what I was taught as a "B" guy is what I apply to my contracting business, now - and that is fine with me. I was NOT taught any residential wiring through the union...the union DOES have a B program, but I was accepted into the A program.
You can never know where this business will take you - in 1985 as I pondered the differences between a red wire nut and a yellow wirenut, I would have NEVER thought I would be changing navigational lights on a bridge over the Hackensack River 110' in the air(1990) or splicing a 35kv cable (no wire nuts required...LOL) in 2005!