As the U.S. is slowly recovering from the recession caused by the 2008 economic crisis, the labor market is finally looking up for Americans seeking employment. Industries like construction or manufacturing have experienced growth in 2016. 1 Multiple articles have come out talking about skilled trades jobs going unfilled, and there is talk about a skilled labor gap, but is there really such a thing?
Why People Believe There is a Skilled Labor Gap
For years now, industry experts have been concerned about the number of retiring Baby Boomers in the skilled trades. In 2015, for example, about one in five skilled workers was 55 years or older. Many of these workers have been retiring for years and will continue to do so. States like Minnesota 2 are wondering if they will find workers to replace those who are retiring wondering if it will hamper economic growth with a work slowdown affecting sectors like manufacturing, construction, transportation, and warehousing.
Furthermore, decades of bias against vocational training and blue-collar careers have discouraged young people to enter the skilled trades. There is a stigma that the students who opt for vocational training are only doing so because they couldn’t make it in the academic subjects. The number of students receiving vocational education like welding training are much lower in the United States than countries like Germany where unemployment is low. 3
Proposals to Close the Skilled Labor Gap
However, there are several things that can be done in order to reverse this troublesome trend: expanding vocational training, connecting with businesses, and encouraging people to train for certain jobs. Only 36% of Colorado’s workforce has qualifications for a “middle skills jobs that do not require a four year degree but require some vocational training beyond high school. A public-private partnership in Colorado proposed through education and training programs for younger workers and adults who lack education or experienced job loss. 4
Another proposal is fostering a strong relationship between businesses and educational institutions to ensure that students learn the skills needed in today’s jobs. 5 Students interested in the skilled trades can be encouraged by incentives like exposure to the trades in high school.
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A Better Future with the Skilled Trades
The skilled trades are changing. Industries like manufacturing or construction are modernizing, which requires workers that have the training to handle these highly skilled – and often well paying – jobs. Trade careers are a promising alternative for those who do not want to enroll spend the money or the time in a four year college or university to land a good job. By choosing a career in the skilled trades, young Americans and career changers can build a future for themselves.
1 – http://www.bls.gov/news.release/jolts.t01.htm
2 – http://www.twincities.com/2016/01/30/can-minnesotas-labor-market-survive-the-baby-boomer-retirement-wave/
3 – http://www.bbc.com/news/business-35061496
4 – https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/sites/default/files/13%20EconPovertySkillstoCompeteColoradoClosingCO%20MiddleSkillsGap.pdf /
5 – http://www.cnbc.com/2016/03/03/how-to-close-the-skills-gap-commentary.html