If we don’t take steps now to stem the looming shortages in trade jobs, the availability of these services will become harder to secure, the window to complete home improvement projects will become longer and, most likely, remodeling costs will go up at an accelerated rate because of labor shortages to perform this type of work.
For the last three years, according to various studies, the hardest segment of the workforce for employers to staff with skilled talent hasn’t been registered nurses or engineers or even web developers. It’s been the skilled trades — the plumbers, electricians and machinists who are so prevalent in manufacturing and home improvement-related construction work.
But if these skilled-trades workers are difficult for employers to find now, as Manpower’s survey suggests, this skills gap is expected to become more problematic in the years ahead.
It’s important to debunk the notion that these skilled trade jobs, many requiring a technical degree or high school diploma, are less desirable than careers requiring at least a four-year college degree. In fact, jobs in the skilled trades are in demand and almost all provide family-sustaining salaries. And most employers are willing to be patient, train and give new workers ample opportunities to succeed.
Looming shortages in the trades are due to factors such as: an aging workforce, with many contractors nearing retirement; a retreat of workers from skilled trades into other careers (or unemployment) following the 2008-2009 recession and a shortage of young people entering those fields.
Bold steps are needed to encourage young people on the viability of these types of careers. The Manufacturing Institute, an affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers, reports that currently in the U.S. there are 600,000 skilled jobs, such as electricians, roofing, siding, landscapers, plumbers, carpenters and masons, going unfilled. By 2020, the study suggests there will be a need for 10 million new skilled workers. There is job security in many of these trades. As long as we own and rent homes and build and improve commercial properties there will be a need for plumbers, electricians and skilled craftsmen.