Tradesmen Shortage: Skip College, Learn a Trade News & Opinion

Tradesmen Shortage: Skip College, Learn a Trade


Once again a recent study is showing that tradesmen are in short supply. While getting your 4-year college degree seems to be “all the rage”, the latest findings from the 7th annual Talent Shortage Survey by ManpowerGroup Inc. show that skilled trades such as welders and electricians once again top the latest list of the most difficult-to-fill job openings. ManpowerGroup is a global staffing and recruitment company headquartered in Milwaukee, WI. The lack of skilled tradesmen really is an emerging dilemma, and it’s largely the result of an educational system that seems to diminish the value and job satisfaction of working in the various trades. There is also a lack of communication of the benefits of working in trades and the often lucrative pay scales associated with being an electrician, carpenter, plumber, welder, etc.

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The Tradesmen Shortage and Skills Gap

This oncoming and unavoidable “skills gap” is only going to get worse. And the industry is already short on help. It isn’t uncommon to have lots of job openings go unfilled for lack of qualified or willing candidates, even at a time of high unemployment like we are experiencing today. In its recent report, Manpower said that 49% of U.S.-based employers report difficulty filling “mission-critical” positions within their organizations. The list of positions that are in most demand (and not getting filled) includes the #1 “Skilled Trades” as well as IT staff, mechanics, nurses, and machinists. The “Skilled Trades” category includes, among others, construction workers, bricklayers, and electricians.

To arrive at their numbers, Manpower surveyed nearly 40,000 workers in 41 nations and more than 1,300 in the U.S. The report indicated that American employers seemed to have a more difficult time filling positions than their global counterparts. We weren’t terribly surprised to hear this, since our focus and glamorization of college degrees and white collar jobs leads young people to expect a lot more for a lot less. In my own interviewing of young people (I give a monthly lecture at the local private college) I have found that students are more concerned with what they’ll make than what they’ll be required to do. Students also seem to carry around a certain level of entitlement when it comes to average starting salaries coming out of college. When it comes to average salaries – it seems everyone believes they are above-average.

So what’s the solution? Well, we encourage the communication and education of trades to young adults, particularly at the middle school levels, before they reach an age where their future plans seem to be more set in stone. The trades offer a lot of job satisfaction and, with the current deficit of workers, remains an excellent place to earn decent money for a job well done. It’s also typically MUCH less expensive to get training in a trade than a typical college degree. That means you are earning money sooner, and paying down less student debt, bringing your earned income to a much higher level more quickly.

According to the ManpowerGroup report, these are the hardest jobs to fill in 2012 (hardest at the top):

  1. Skilled trades
  2. Engineers
  3. IT staff
  4. Sales representatives
  5. Accounting & finance staff
  6. Drivers
  7. Mechanics
  8. Nurses
  9. Machinists/machine operators
  10. Teachers

So what do YOU think? Do you see a shortage of skilled tradesmen? Let us know in our forums or by commenting on our Facebook page.

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