As many sectors in the U.S. economy grapple with a shortage of skilled workers, there’s a growing opportunity for young job seekers or those looking for a new career. State and industry initiatives across the country are trying to change perceptions about the skilled trades and are offering training and job placement in many fields.
Jobs expected to be in high demand over the next decade include construction workers, electricians, machinists, welders, industrial machinery mechanics and HVAC technicians.
The talent shortage already is creating a crisis in many industries. A study by the Manufacturing Institute found more than 2 million advanced manufacturing jobs will go unfilled in the next decade, and more than 80 percent of surveyed executives said it will affect their ability to meet customer demand.
In the construction industry, a shortage of skilled workers is even delaying projects in some states. The Association of General Contractors said average hours in construction have risen to their highest level in a decade as companies give existing workers longer hours to compensate for the shortage of qualified people.
Stephen Sandherr, CEO of AGC, says there’s often a lack of awareness about the good opportunities to be found in the skilled trades. “Too many high school students are never given an opportunity to consider careers in construction, despite the fact those jobs pay more than the average non-farm job,” he says.
A survey by AGC found that demand is expected to rise even further for crafts like roofing, plumbing, electrical work, and concrete masonry. The market for electrical workers alone is expected to grow by 14 percent in the next decade and electricians now earn a median wage of $52,720. As of June 2017, the average hourly earnings in the construction industry stood at $28.55, 9 percent more than the average non-farm private sector job, and up 2.2 percent from the following year.
While traditional blue-collar jobs are paying more, many also require more education and training than they have in the past. New initiatives funded by state governments, industry associations and companies are reaching out to potential candidates with training and placement.
Tennessee recently launched the Go Build Tennessee program to encourage young people to consider careers in the skilled trades. In March 2017, Georgia implemented its Trade Five “workforce awareness” program to educate further workers about in-demand skilled trades.
Other states already have workforce initiatives with large employers that offer free training, and some schools are now introducing students to the trades as early as seventh grade.
New federal initiatives also could spur more training and development in the skilled trades. Many industrial leaders have said the U.S. has long lacked a robust and formalized national apprenticeship program.