EAST GRAND FORKS, Minn. • Luke Sellner chose a career path as an electrician because, for one thing, he doesn’t want to make a career of sitting behind a desk all day.

But there’s another reason: He’s learned there is high demand for electricians, not just regionally but across the country.

“So I am thinking I could probably get a job just about anywhere,” he said.

Sellner, originally from Hudson, Wis., is a student at Northland Community & Technical College in East Grand Forks, Minn., majoring in construction electricity. He keeps busy between his studies and serving as the campus’ student senate president, a position he was elected to this past summer. It has helped him hone his leadership skills, something he believes will serve him well once he enters the workforce.

Careerwise, there are two options he is considering: Working with electricity in the commercial sector or the residential. He currently is leaning toward residential, but that could change. He said during his first year he worked on more residential projects, but this year his studies are focused more on commercial.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

“This year I'm just going to figure out which one I like more,” he said.“I guess I still haven't done enough work in the field to know what I want to do for sure.” Still, he said he’s learned a lot since starting school and is not shy about admitting what he doesn’t know.

“I basically came into this with little experience, and so it's all been pretty new to me,” he said. “Everything I’ve learned is basically new to me, besides that electricity gives you light.”

When starting out, a new electrician is often an apprentice first, he said.

As a second-year student, Sellner said his instructors have many years of professional experience under their belts and have been extremely helpful.

Something else he enjoys is the hands-on projects he gets to participate in from time to time, including a recent project wiring electricity for a house.

Luke Sellner poses for a photo at Northland Community & Technical College in East Grand Forks, Minn., where he is studying construction electricity.
Luke Sellner poses for a photo at Northland Community & Technical College in East Grand Forks, Minn., where he is studying construction electricity. Image: Courtesy of Northland Community & Technical College

Sellner explains why, in his opinion, the trades are important to pursue today: “It is really important. We depend on electricity so much right now and have for a long time. And if you're looking for the money, it's there. You just have to find the right spot to do it. There are plenty of jobs to go into. It's not like you have to go back to school for four years to get a business degree or whatever; you don't have to do that. You can go into the trades, (attend school for a year or two), get a job as soon as you can and start going up in the ranks.”

That remains his plan.

“Basically, at least right now, my plan is to get going on (a job) and see where it goes from there” he said. “I want to do this until, well, hopefully until I retire, which is a long way away, but that's my plan so far.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, electrician jobs are expected to grow about 9% until 2030, with 84,700 openings projected each year, on average, over the next decade. A number of those openings will be the need to replace workers who retire or change occupations.

“We need as many people in the trades as we can; trades will always be around no matter what technology is out there,” said electrician and Northland instructor Rick Simon. “People will always need buildings to work out of and to live in (and) these buildings need to be maintained by the trades people.

Simon said Sellner is a quiet, dependable student. He works hard and stays on task -- good qualities to have in the trades.

“I want my guys to leave here knowing they got the best I can give them,” Simon said. “I want them as ready as possible … to go out and work for contractors such as myself or other contractors. I also want them to have the ability to work with other trades on the jobsite.”

Sellner said he believes with the training he is receiving at school, he will be ready for an adventurous career in the trades. He offers this advice for others who may be considering a similar path.

“Try to get into a job as soon as you can and put in the work that you learned in school,” he said, explaining he plans to land a job soon. “It'll help you a lot, so do that if you can. And don't go too hard on yourself. It takes a while to figure things out. ... It'll come to you if you just keep practicing.”