Saturday, August 8, 2009

Technician Jobs and the Impact of the Recession

The table to the left gives a breakdown of the total NICET certified sprinkler layout technicians as of April, 2009.

As I write this the country is in the worst recession since the great depression with unemployment at 9.5% with some parts of the country unemployment is hitting 15% or greater.

Commercial construction is sharply down with many skilled workers, foremen and project superintendents facing unemployment. In nearly all areas of the country it's pretty bad out there.

Among the hard hit are drafting technicians working for architectural firms, these are the people who do the actual drafting and detail work, because there just isn't enough work available.

But for NICET certified layout technicians this is not the case. As far as I can determine this little niche group enjoys 99% employment. Those very few who aren't working is because they don't want to.

Sound hard to believe? Check for yourself, a Google Search using "nicet sprinkler jobs" through Google this morning shows 10,400 jobs that are gong begging even now.

Like this one:

Our organization is committed to our employees. Our long standing success is built on the teamwork of our workers contributing around the world.

At xxxxx you’re valued.

We are actively seeking applicants for the following positions. If you feel that your skills and interests fit xxx but you don’t see a position below that fits you – please contact us.

Sprinkler Designer NICET III

Company: xxxxxxx

Location: Salt Lake City, UT

Requirements: NICET III or IV certification in fire sprinkler system layout. Proficiency with HydraCAD design software.

Responsibilities: Design fire protection systems for a wide variety of projects. Responsibilities include CAD work, coordination work, site survey work, hydraulic calculations, stocklisting, etc.

Pay Range: Pay depends on your level of experience and education.

Benefits: Medical, Dental, Life Insurance, Long-Term Disability, 401K, Profit Sharing.
The benefits offered are pretty well standard across the industry.

Pay depends on level of experience but anyone who holds a Level III or IV certificate has a good amount of experience. For pay we can use to find the average pay for a NICET III certificate holder is $50,000 per year. Salt Lake City is an area that generally pays less than the rest of the county while Dallas Texas brings an average of $62,000, Omaha Nebraska brings $56,000 , $66,000 in Columbus, Georgia and $55,000 in Little Rock Arkansas.

For holders of a NICET IV certificate you could easily add $10,000 per year to the listed salaries with most LEVEL IV certificate holders earning between $60,000 and $90,000 depending on where they are in the country.

A Detailed Salary 2006 Survey for all NICET certifications provided by ASCET. Chart 14 on page 9 indicates over half the national salary range in 2006 is between $45,000 and $74,999 per year.

How many NICET Certified Layout Technicians are there?

In Utah, not many.

Fact is the list is so sort we can put the entire list of fifty (50) on this blog. If Utah had a job and 100% of the people who were qualified did apply you would have fifty applicants.

Last Name, First Name, Middle Initial, Town of Residence, Certificate Number and Level of Certification.

Adams, Daniel N. Murray 76950 IV
Anderson, Lee S. Salt Lake City 100002 IV
Atkinson, Craig D. Murray 105885 III
Berry, Michael J. Salt Lake Cty 78526 III
Black, Edward C. North Ogden 84106 IV
Blue, Craig R. W Valley City 95307 III
Brey, Ronald A. American Fork 80492 III
Bump, David L. Riverton 93589 III
Carver, Kelly D. Pleassant View 106025 III
Chanthasen, Khathaname K. Taylorsville 94210 IV
Christensen, Bruce E. Highland 70517 IV
Darr, Jeffrey C. Tooele 68403 III
Dial, Lebron T. Highland 79070 III
Eyres, Tracy D. Eden 87134 III
Glaser, William A. Tooele 69661 IV
Goodloe, Robert F. Murray 70424 III
Hagen, Marc B. Draper 111359 IV
Hagen, Robert B. Salt Lake City 70982 IV
Hagen, Sean B. Draper 111360 IV
Haight, John A. Hurricane 98793 IV
Hancock, Clint M. Riverton 70026 III
Harris, Raymond G. Murray 63776 IV
Hatfield, Ronald L. Springville 70628 IV
Heiner, Brent D. Kaysville 75758 III
Housholder, Thomas W. Fruit Heights 96701 IV
Johnson, Craig L. Farmington 93912 IV
Johnson, Jeffrey J. Draper 69385 IV
Johnson, Steven W. Lehi 82151 III
Knuteson, Alan G. Payson 109270 IV
Lloyd, Ronald E. Salt Lake City 109185 III
Mann, Kent A. Salt Lake City 69331 IV
Martin, Randall W. Magna 64595 III
Mash, Frank L. Salt Lake Cty 93655 III
Mead, Michael Salt Lake City 98650 III
Merkley, David C. Woods Cross 67313 III
Montague, Frank B. Elk Ridge 109286 IV
Neilsen, Allan M. Highland 71009 III
Nicholas, Stan T. Corinne 99936 III
Olar, Boyd N. Pleasantview 72552 IV
Rasband, Craig B. Salt Lake Cty 78555 III
Robinson, Lynn R. Woods Cross 117914 III
Shepp, Stanley M. Saint George 98169 IV
Smith, Gordon D. Layton 69714 IV
Snow, Kelly G. Pleasant Grove 69715 III
Strong, Dennis R. Salt Lake Cty 64546 III
Tordiff, Joseph J. Farmington 63969 III
Warath, Jeremy G. Salt Lake City 107233 III
White, William A. Salt Lake City 66267 IV
Wilson, Bob L. Orangeville 69468 IV
Wilson, Brian S. Morgan 123139 IV

Here's the problem. NICET certificate numbers are issued sequentially; the lower the number the older the certificate. I have nothing factual to back this up with but I would estimate at least 90% of certificate holders with numbers below 90,000 are in their 50's.

NICET testing for sprinklers began around 1980 and the first certificates issued started around 63,000. Any number below 70,000 gained certification nearly 30 years ago and with the 5 years minimum experience required the earliest anyone would have taken the test was in their mid 20's which would put youngest possible age in the mid 50's.

In actual fact the large majority of those with certificate numbers below 70,000 are in their 60's, 70's or even 80's making a third of those who are qualified 60 years old or older.

Not nearly enough, nowhere near enough and for reason's I will get around to explaining it is only going to get tighter.

As of April, 2009 the total for Level III certification was 1,751 while Level IV certification is 1,054 for a total of 2,805 certified technicians in the entire United States. That's an average of just 56 per state.

Let's assume a job opening comes up in Nebraska (there are several open jobs right now) where the State of Nebraska requires a NICET III or IV certificate holder be the "Responsible Managing Employee". The problem with Nebraska is there's only 27 Level III's and 12 Level IV's in the entire state. If someone has a job opening that requires a Level III or IV the theoretical maximum number of applicants a company could possibly get would be 39 and that is only if 100% of everyone applied. I can assure you this would not happen. They would be lucky to get 2 and some jobs go begging for months on end.

California is even worse. California has 45 Level III's and 34 Level IV's so if everyone applied that fit the qualifications the theoretical maximum number of applicants a California company could receive would be 79. With a population of 33 million only 1 in 417,721 California residents would even qualify and even now all that do are working unless they don't want to.

Here's the problem the industry faces and why it is even going to get tighter in the next 5 to 10 years.

We're retiring. It is estimated over half the Level III and IV technicans currently registered are in their 50's, 60's and 70's and will be retiring sometime over the next 10 years.

I am in my 60's and I'll be one of them.

There are few come up behind us as replacements. Now it's down to poaching certified technicians from other companies and it's only going to get worse.

As it gets worse pay will go up.

Why? Training. Nobody is training and there are few schools, I know of three community colleges and two universities in the United States that offer the training, that offer it.

When I started in the 1970's there were a number of large companies that acted as training grounds. We had Automatic Sprinkler Corporation of America and Grinnel Fire Protection which was the big one. In the 1970's over half those being trained as technicians were coming out of these two companies and today they're mostly gone. Automatic Sprinkler no longer exists and Grinnel was bought out by an fire alarm company and does very little sprinkler installation anymore. The rest of the companies are smaller, $1 million to $30 million in annual sales each, and aren't doing the training. It's to expensive to train.

1 comment:

  1. Working in the fire sprinkler industry is an exceedingly rewarding area to be involved in. Knowing that you are helping to save lives gives you a very good feeling indeed.