The Shortage of Skilled-Trade Workers

Going to a four-year university to get a bachelor’s degree has become the societal “norm”. The idea that one must go to college and get a four-year degree to be successful in life has been drilled into the heads of high school students for years. Only recently, is it becoming obvious that getting a four-year degree does not always pay off. The financial return from getting a degree is declining. Many college grads are entering careers that have no relation to their degree, that under pay, and that result in students suffering from years of drowning in debt. In the meantime, high-paying, skilled-trade jobs that require shorter, less expensive training remain unfilled.

The shortage of these workers is so severe that 70% of construction companies nationwide are struggling to fill their positions. Experts at the American Welding Association predict a welding shortage of 200,000 jobs by 2020. Research conducted by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute predict that over the next 10 years, manufacturers will need to add 4.6 million manufacturing jobs. Of those jobs, it is predicted that as much as 2.4 million will go unfilled. Already today, The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 500,000 manufacturing jobs in the U.S remain vacant. There is simply just not enough talent to fill skilled-trade positions. With the future workforce being directed to higher-education, filling these positions will remain a challenge.

Higher-Education vs Skilled-Trades

Most parents want a better career for their child. Due to their outdated, common misconceptions of skilled-trade careers, they shy their children away from them. However, skilled-trade jobs have come a long ways over the past few decades and there are many high-paying positions that make for good careers and save individuals from college debt.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for a welder in 2018 was $40,240. CNC programmers earned an annual median wage of $52,550. Both these jobs are in-demand right now and don’t require your standard bachelor’s degree.

Attracting Talent To Skilled-Trades

Some states have started to launch different initiatives to attract more students to technical and skilled-trade careers. For example, California plans to spend $200 million to improve the delivery of career and technical education. Community colleges and businesses in Iowa are partnering to increase the number of “work-based leaning opportunities”, and Tennessee has made its technical colleges free.

While these initiatives are great, there needs to be more initiatives like them launched around the nation. It is important for businesses and educators to collaborate in spreading awareness of career alternatives that don’t require a bachelors degree. Students need to learn about the opportunity that exists outside of a four-year degree and get real insight to what these jobs in demand look like and what they entail.

You often see colleges coming to schools to recruit students, but you never see businesses that employ skilled-trade workers coming to schools to recruit future workers. Businesses should consider going to schools to recruit potential talent and encourage students to consider skilled-trade careers. Educators also need to be open to inviting businesses into their schools and talking about these career paths. They should be encouraging and supportive to students considering this path. Their involvement, along with state initiatives, could be the key to attracting more people into skilled-trade positions.

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