Closing the Gap in Skilled Trades
MORE SKILLED TRADES, was the topic the U.S Department of Labor Secretary, Alexander Acosta, addressed during the Building and Construction Trades Apprenticeship Training Conference at Washtenaw Community College. At the conference, he was quoted saying, “The United States has 6.2 million job openings. That is the highest number of job openings ever in the U.S. In the building trades industry alone, there are more than 250,000 job openings.” If you have been on a construction site recently, then you have probably either heard or been part of the discussion on the shortage of skilled trade workers, as it is a very common topic of conversation.
Why the Shortage?
From 2006 – 2011, nearly 2,000,000 jobs were lost in the construction industry. As a result, people were forced to find employment elsewhere. Since this time, many have not returned to construction. For decades now, the emphasis that was once based on career interest, has been focused solely on preparing high school students for college. The notion that you will earn more money with a college degree has created a stigma on vocational training, therefore causing enrollment to decline. This has occurred despite the fact, an electrician’s average salary is comparable to a recent college grad. Additionally, over time federal funding for vocational training has been significantly reduced, thus leaving schools unable to invest in training programs or forcing programs to be eliminated.
Closing the Gap
The good news is there are 250,000 job openings! I would say that this is a good problem to have, wouldn’t you? Local and federal governments have recognized the need to promote skilled trade opportunities. The U.S. Labor Secretary, Acosta, recently announced a task force on apprenticeship training. Members of the Task Force will focus their efforts on identifying strategies and programs to promote apprenticeships and training, and to increase these opportunities in communities that are lacking. College isn’t for everyone and that’s ok. This is the message that we need to convey to those who are deciding on a future career. The majority of people working in the construction industry are nearing retirement age. This is the impetus to petition for a greater investment in training and career counseling at the high school level.
When the construction industry is thriving, so is our economy, which means opportunities for employment increases. Construction and skilled trade employment opportunities are not fading anytime soon. Now is the time for businesses and government officials to get involved with high schools and colleges to promote career-sustaining counseling. Business owners should work with organizations, such as, NABTU, whose mission is to preserve the economic stability for skilled trade workers. They offer apprenticeships, building trades, and construction management training programs throughout the US and Canada. There are also many community colleges, that offer training, apprenticeships and job placements in skilled trades, such as Washtenaw Community College. Here is a full list of Skilled Trade Schools in Michigan. If you are considering a profession in the construction industry, now is the time to pursue your career. As long as we continue to utilize electric, plumbing and HVAC Systems, and construct new homes and buildings there will be an endless demand for job opportunities in skilled trades.