Employers, think that a shortage of skilled trades’ talent exists now?
Just wait. The skills gap is likely to become more critical.
Whether welders, carpenters, electricians, machinists, or pipe-fitters, more than 55% the skilled trades’ workers in the U.S are age 45 or older. Certainly, as boomers retire, the opportunity exists to replace an employee at a lower pay rate. But the big question is: would an experienced worker be available?
Additionally, the reshoring effort over the last few years (to return manufacturing from abroad), though eliciting a resurgence of pride of “made in the USA,” has drawn further attention to the dwindling pool of skilled labor.
What is the answer to the shortage?
1) Training programs
To fill gaps in talent, specialized training programs, whether provided through schools or industry, would be helpful. In a few weeks’ time, an individual could receive a certificate and be prepared for an apprenticeship. The trade could be learned both on-the-job and through additional classroom instruction.
Unions may find training programs a concern. They don’t want to lessen the amount of time it takes to become a journeyman. Translate that to a possibility of more people in positions at lower wages. Moreover, they believe applicants, including recent high-school graduates, have poor math knowledge, problem-solving ability, and reading/comprehension capability. Union leaders point to the vocation as being a lifelong career and apprentices should learn patience.
2) Re-popularization of vocations
Skilled trades currently rank low among teens as a career option because of a negative perception or stereotype. The US has been focused on sending graduates to a baccalaureate program whether or not the teen’s proclivity was academics. The push toward professions rather than vocations has not only contributed to the number of workers in the skilled trades, but also created a dearth of people who must compete for a limited number of jobs in fields that are not actively hiring.
It would be beneficial for high schools to discern a student’s individual talents and interests prior to career counseling. Those who like to work with their hands would excel at a vocation but likely flounder or feel dissatisfied in a profession. Wouldn’t it make sense for an employee to be happy in the job because he/she was maximizing innate giftedness?
Genevieve Stevens, Interim Dean, Houston Community College’s central campus, told the Houston Chronicle, “We started focusing on academic instruction, but left behind the notion of work-force education. However, in a two-year institution that costs less, the average work-force student can come out of that program with skills to gain immediate employment.”
3) Hiring veterans
Don’t discount those returning from service in the armed forces. Though there could be some special circumstances to consider (such as an adjustment period for PTSD), many veterans will be looking for ways to support themselves and their families. Some may have transferrable skills, such as in fiber optics or electrical-mechanical repair. Some may have a few years of college already under their belt.
An employer could find these individuals eager to learn. Being used to a structured environment, they also might find the most comfort and acceptance in a trades’ role.
4) A mobile work force
Is it realistic to have a skilled trades’ team to travel from site to site to perform specific functions? According to several sources, the shortage in skilled labor is not solely a domestic but a global problem. Employers in Germany, France, Italy, Canada and Brazil admit hiring skilled trades is their primary challenge. A “strategic migration” of workers could help meet the needs of businesses at least in a short-term, dependent on the cooperation of unions and governments, especially in crossing obstacles for paperwork and credentialing.
5) Increase incentives and scholarships
The phrase “follow the money” could incent some to consider a vocation instead of a profession. If nothing else, better pay should encourage a more positive attitude toward filling gaps in the trades.
Are you dealing with a labor shortage?
The Lee Group is one of Virginia’s leading recruitment and staffing agencies. We offer services tailored for each client’s individual needs, such as:
- Extensive screening and recruiting practices
- Flexible workforce solutions
- On-site employee management
- Client specific training and testing
- Policies and procedures development, and
How may we help you fill your labor shortage? Call one of our conveniently located offices or connect with us here. We look forward to talking with you.