This blog was originally posted on SHRM Atlanta.
One of the (if not the) hardest segments of the workforce to staff for is the skilled trades, and the skills gap is widening drastically as seasoned craftsmen continue to age out. For every four people retiring from the trades, there is only one person to take their place. It’s time to look to young workers and professionals-to-be to fill these jobs, but this won’t be easy without some education on what the modern version of skilled labor looks like.
With the thought of college on the horizon, it isn’t typical for a high school student to head down a career path in the craft trades; an industry largely made up of machinists, welders, electricians, carpenters and plumbers. While prevailing misperceptions and other factors are at play, the lack of popularity in these fields is largely due to little awareness about what these jobs can offer in pay, innovation, stability and job growth.
There are literally thousands of open trade jobs available in Georgia. Statewide business, civic and government leaders are actively addressing this declining trend in talent because of the significant implications it has on the economy. Programs such as Go Build Georgia are providing resources and opportunities to learn about these industries by allowing high school students like Rebecca Cocker to understand their options at an earlier age. The goal is to let young people know that a four-year degree isn’t the only way to land a worthwhile job.
Innovation and creativity power this emerging generation of workers, and they are hungry for responsibility. Pamela Hurt, manager of the education foundation at the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, says, “Kids want dynamic, exciting IT jobs and they don’t think that can be found in manufacturing right now… that’s not the case. There are great exciting careers in manufacturing with great technologies.” And these opportunities aren’t gender specific. According to a recent study by Deloitte on the state of women in manufacturing, the most significant talent shortages in the industry are in skilled-production workers, engineering technologists, scientists and design engineers – not unskilled, heavy-lifting, manual laborers.