‘A good time to train as an electrician’
Kendra Dinkins leads family-owned electrical contractor Taylor Electric, which will hit the century mark next year. The company is certified as a Minority Business Enterprise and Women’s Business Enterprise. It specializes in multi-unit residential buildings, schools and churches but also provides maintenance at high-profile venues including Soldier Field, Guaranteed Rate Field and Navy Pier. Taylor Electric also maintains traffic signals for Cook County and the Illinois Department of Transportation. Dinkins began her career at the company as a bookkeeper in 2007 and was named president and CEO in 2015.
CRAIN’S: How did the pandemic affect your ongoing work?
DINKINS: We experienced brief shutdowns in the beginning of the pandemic. Thankfully, Gov. Pritzker declared construction essential, so we raced to make our job sites safe for our employees and returned to work quickly. While we have been fortunate to not have a huge revenue drop due to COVID-19, we along with other contractors have seen margins get tighter. Capturing the extra costs of doing business during a pandemic (job shutdowns, extra PPE, cleaning costs) is essential.
Is there a shortage of electricians?
With the billions of dollars of work still in play (the O’Hare 21 project, multiple hospital expansions and the Obama Presidential Center), the construction industry has been experiencing a shortage of labor. Mix that with early retirees during the pandemic and a potential infrastructure bill to be approved, we are looking at more shortages to come.
Are women coming into the field?
There’s always been a wide gap. Even with recruiting, you’re recruiting them into a (male-dominated) culture that doesn’t treat them the same way. You lose a few along the way during the training period. Union benefits don’t include maternity leave.
How do you hire and train?
Taylor Electric is a union shop; we depend on the expert training provided by IBEW NECA Technical Institute. Becoming an electrician is a rewarding career, with many owners and management teams consisting of former electricians. Our apprentices are given five years of paid on-the-job and classroom training. By the time they graduate the apprenticeship program they will have steady work, earning up to six figures with no college debt. You can’t beat that. For anyone interested in becoming a skilled trade specialist, now is the time!
Have your MBE and WBE certifications proved advantageous?
Yes, our certifications have granted us lots of exposure with larger contractors and more high-profile jobs.
How are you affected by the caps on revenue for minority contractors?
The size standard for our category is $16.5 million (averaged over three years). At the rate we’re growing, we’ll graduate in three to five years. Once we lose our certification, we become a little less attractive. We’re trying our best to prepare.