Workforce Spotlight

Millennials to Benefit from the Loss of Skilled Tradesmen

August 20, 2018

The recession, an aging workforce, and an increasing emphasis on high tech jobs have produced a shortage of skilled workers, particularly those in trades that require special training and certification. It is estimated that about 1 million skilled workers were fired or laid off during the recession, a number that still hasn’t been replaced. The National Electrical Contractors Association reports that approximately 10,000 electricians retire each year, with only an estimated 7,000 available to fill those positions - plumbers, carpenters, welders and other skilled trades face similar gaps, creating a potentially dangerous shortfall of qualified employees to replace workers who are retiring from skilled trade jobs.


The gradual elimination of industrial arts and shop classes in America’s high schools hasn’t helped. That’s where students were introduced to metal working, carpentry, electronics and drafting, which laid the foundation for many careers in the trades. However, the hemorrhaging of skilled workers has created a definite opportunity for tens of thousands of young people interested in pursuing a career. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a nearly 10 percent increase in the employment of electricians over the next six years.


Great opportunities

Projections are that certified tradesmen can expect to make a very good living for the foreseeable future. Lead carpenter ($63,000 a year) and elevator mechanic ($61,000) are among the 21 highest-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree. Young people who enter these jobs typically go through trade schools or serve apprenticeships and do very well once they earn their certification.


Electricians can make an average of $52,000 a year with a high school diploma (or GED) and an apprenticeship. Auto mechanics, electricians, and wind turbine technicians are also among some of the most in-demand jobs in the coming years. HVAC technicians also do quite well and can expect to enter the job market with a diploma after about six months. Plumbing continues to be one of the most lucrative careers, with an average anticipated salary of $51,000, though as you advance in the field you can expect to make substantially more. Certification is offered in a vast range of class types, from aviation and aircraft mechanic to diesel mechanic and precision production.


The need for workers has become so great that companies in some states have started joint initiatives aimed at creating momentum for trade and vocational schools. The Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education, a consortium of manufacturing companies, has partnered with local schools to grow the number of skilled manufacturing workers, an endeavor that’s crucial to the state’s industry and economic well-being. It’s a trend that’s picking up steam nationwide as employers recognize the crisis they’ll face if they can’t replace the workers who are retiring and taking their skills with them.


Millenials to benefit

As baby boomers leave the workforce, millennials can expect unprecedented opportunities for good-paying jobs and job security. For example, of the 600,000 electrician jobs in the United States today, roughly half will become available within the next 10 years. There are similar projections for pipe fitters, welders, utility workers, and other skilled fields. Consequently, contractors should consider hiring millennials for construction work and skilled jobs that will need reliable, long-term employees.


America’s millennial generation faces challenges that others before them never experienced. College tuition and the burden of repaying student debt is creating an entire sub-population of financially strapped young people. The opportunities available in the skilled trades offers high school graduates and trade school students a path to good pay, excellent on-the-job training, and a lifetime of security.


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