Over the last few decades, the skilled trades industry has been suffering its own prolonged recession. There have been several contributing factors that lead to what we can now categorize as a crisis. Many believe that this began with the negative impacts from the pandemic, but it goes much deeper than that.
The 2008 economic downturn was the catalyst to the skilled labor shortage. During this time, many shop classes were being eliminated entirely from Jr and Senior High Schools. The No Child Left Behind Act expedited this transition. It forced schools to focus much more time on Reading and Mathematics with a huge emphasis on college readiness.
This implementation had an inevitable ripple effect throughout the nation. Skilled work was becoming demonized as “dirty and unintelligent work.” It was a known belief that you were not considered an intellectual individual if you were not planning on obtaining a 4-Year college degree. Educators were pushing trades as a second option and not holding this path in as high of esteem as university.
What was already a struggle, became an even bigger one during the pandemic. Not only were qualified candidates already hard to find, but many of them were unwilling to return to work. As we saw in 2008, many folks either retired, or began to work in different industries as layoffs began to spread throughout the world.
1 in 4 construction workers are over the age of 55. Placing many of these individuals on the track to retirement. Baby Boomers are continually not being replaced by qualified and able-bodied individuals.
In 2022, there were more than 390,000 job openings per month. In 2024, we will need to bring in more than 342,000 new workers on top of normal hiring practices.
So, how do we fix this? Of course, there is no one answer to that question, but with the help of technological advancements, we can more easily target the younger generation through social media tactics.
Here at CTC specifically, we have a Virtual Reality Welding System. It allows students to feel as if they are in an actual booth welding in real time. It also gives them a score at the end of the simulation.
Portraying the positives of skilled trade work via social media is a great way to raise awareness and educate folks of all ages on this industry. It is also a very important avenue that allows us to debunk certain myths that some believe to be true.
The involvement of school counselors and administrators has been massively influential in this movement. In our area in particular, at least 95% of the counselors I personally interact with have changed their perspective on this career pathway. Many are now understanding that college is not a “one size fits all” option, and we’re highly appreciative of these educators.
Non-Profit organizations and other Skilled Trades Advocates are the true heroes laying the groundwork for this new generation of skilled trades workers. Without their support, we would not have the opportunity to introduce and educate the next generation of workers to this industry.
It’s only up from here!