Demand for Skilled Workers Remains Strong
When all you read about is a slow economy and persistently high unemployment figures, it’s easy not to notice that there are actually personnel shortages in some fields. While college attendance has been on the rise, the supply of welders, pipe fitters and other skilled blue collar workers has been on the wane.
You can blame the perception that blue-collar trades offer less status, money and advancement opportunities. And as young people shy away from the trades, current tradesman approach retirement.
The fact is that some unionized craft workers can make more money than college graduates, without the student debt. But the message isn’t getting out.
Jim Ryan, chief executive of industrial supply distributor W. W. Grainger says: "In the last several years ... all of the benefits of a career in the trades have kind of gotten lost in the clutter of all the other career opportunities. The answer,“ Mr. Ryan says, “is to be much more aggressive in marketing and creating visibility."
We agree. If you are an employer who hires skilled tradespeople, you may be finding them hard to come by. The answer is to look harder, yes, but also to consider how to advertise the benefits of skilled labor. You may have to beef up your compensation to be competitive. You may have to recruit at the high school level and make a commitment to training for great young candidates who don’t yet possess the skills you need.
Yes, you may need to invest. According to its website, W. W. Grainger has “contributed more than $1 million in support of technical education in the form of scholarships, classroom equipment, supplies and funding for technical program start-ups.” What you can’t do is wait for the problem to resolve itself. That solution simply isn’t on the horizon.