The trade skills gap is as wide as ever,

and the risk is high for drastic economic impacts. Skilled tradespeople, such as electricians, plumbers and construction workers, are in high demand while the pool of potential employees is small with many in it unqualified. As a result, positions are left unfilled in industries that are essential.

What has caused the skills gap?

  • According to statistics, nearly 25% of skilled jobs are held by Baby Boomers — age 55 and older. Many industries will experience a void with their impending exit from the workforce.
  • New openings are difficult to fill because the skilled labor force is not as vast as the need requires.
  • Many are training for technical, office jobs instead of other skilled jobs.
  • Pressure on students to attend college after high school instead of taking an apprenticeship or going to a trade school.

What will be the fallout?

  • According to Adecco, which connects 70,000 trade workers with jobs across the country, nearly one-third of the nation’s billion-dollar manufacturers are expecting to lose $100 million or more over the next five years because of the trade skills gap.
  • Nearly 30% of the workforce in industries such as machine setting, electrical engineering, boiler operation, machine maintenance, electrical work, and machine tool operation are 55 years of age or older, which means a projected 31 million positions will be left vacant.  
  • Of the industries affected, more than 60% are reporting a struggle to fill positions of need.

How can we fill the gap?

"...Part of the solution in closing the skills gap has to include a concerted effort to change the way the country feels about those jobs. And that’s PR, that’s portrayals, that’s confronting the stigmas and the stereotypes head on and challenging them."

~Mike Rowe, the host of the TV show “Dirty Jobs”

  • Many companies have begun to combat the skills gap through programs and educational opportunities.
  • Introduction of the STEM curriculum in schools.
  • A collaborative effort between the government, schools, businesses and the general public to encourage two-year trade schools.

It boils down to recognizing and respecting the contributions of every member of the workforce.  The value of a profession is not simply in the paycheck attached to it or the cost of the training behind it, but in the role it plays in making this country run.

Are there other things we can do to fill the gap?  Do we have to reach crisis level before people really take notice of the lack of skilled tradespeople?  Leave a comment and tell us what you think.

Feature Image: Getty Images