There continues to be an overall skilled trades worker shortage in America; or a skills gap. While getting your 4-year college degree seems to be “all the rage”, the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor & Statistics show that skilled trades such as welders and electricians once again top the latest list of the most difficult-to-fill job openings. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for all construction and extraction occupations was $47,430 in May 2019. That surpasses the median annual wage for all occupations ($39,810) by $7,620. That’s around a 20% increase.
The lack of skilled trade workers has shifted from an emerging dilemma to an ongoing one. It seems largely the result of an educational system that continues to diminish the value and job satisfaction of working in the various trades. There is also a lack of communication about the benefits of working in trades and the often lucrative pay scales associated with being an electrician, carpenter, plumber, welder, etc.
Without serious influence and changes to how we view and run education, this ongoing “skills gap” can only get worse. This, in an industry already short on help. It isn’t uncommon to have a lot of job openings go unfilled for lack of qualified or willing candidates, even at times of high unemployment.
In a recent report by AGC and Sage Construction and Real Estate, 75% of those surveyed expected to add workers in 2020. The problem? 81% found it extremely difficult to fill open positions, and a majority anticipated even more difficulty in 2021 and beyond.
The list of high-demand trade worker positions (and not getting filled) includes the Skilled Trades as well as IT staff, mechanics, nurses, and machinists. The Skilled Trades category includes, among others, construction workers, bricklayers, and electricians.
Based on this and similar reports we’ve read over the years, American employers seem to have more difficulty filling positions than their worldwide counterparts. This could be due to the American focus and glorification of college degrees and white-collar jobs. It often leads young people to expect a lot more for a lot less.
Companies, lacking enough skilled trade workers, turn to a variety of solutions when filling the skills gap. This leads to a need to deal with a two-pronged attack: losing workers to attrition and retirement and dealing with new workers who have less experience.
Many larger firms turn to internal investments to try and compensate. This includes using technology in new ways to reduce dependency on skilled workers or a depleted labor force; technology such as 3D printers, BIM (building information modeling) systems, drones, robotics, and more are often employes in an effort to slow this problem.
The other side of this involves changing construction methods to reduce labor. This may include pre-building components or the use of more serialized or simplistic construction methods.