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We are facing a skilled trades gap (or shortage) nationwide and the trend doesn’t seem to be getting any better. As a Denver lumber company, we have seen our fair share of companies that we work with unable to fill positions due to the lack of applicant pools. According to the US Department of Labor and Statistics, tradesmen are currently in the 6 hardest positions to fill. This trend is expected to continue for the next 15-20 years. So how did we get here and what can we do about it?

Introduction of the Skilled Trades Gap

Dating back as far as 20 years, we started to see a decline in skilled tradespeople due to the recession. Many hardworking individuals lost their jobs in the recession and simply have not been back. Also, as our baby boomer generation gets older- we are just adding fuel to the fire of losing workers to retirement faster than we can replace them.

Another key component of causation for a skilled trades gap is the elimination of shop class from high school. As budgets were cut, schools chose to focus on “safer” and more lucrative topics within their education climate. For many students, school would be the only place this exposure to construction and working with their hands would come into their lives. They simply were not told that construction was a viable career path for them. With our tech-first culture and push towards a 4 year traditional college, a large group of potential workers were redirected into an educational plan that may not have benefited them and certainly did not benefit our workforce. The social pressure to choose a reputable career, over construction, truly hurt individuals and our culture. We simply cannot survive without them- buildings do not build themselves!

The facts are simple:

According to Adecco, 62% of firms are struggling to fill important skilled trades positions.

Skilled Trades in Demand (Infographic)
Source: Adecco Staffing, USA

If nothing is done about this, Adecco estimates that 32% of billion-dollar manufacturers estimate they’ll lose over $100 million as Boomers retire over the next five or so years.

They also assert that there will be 31 million positions that will be left vacant by 2020 due to Baby Boomer retirement estimations.

This is a big problem! What can we do about it?

#1: Training Partnerships

We look to large manufacturers and leaders in the industry to set up training partnerships with educators. This could be done through the public school systems, charter school, or an accredited program with a fast track to employment through the manufacturers themselves.

#2: 2 Year Colleges and Trade Schools

This should have always been the model for directing promising youth into a career in the trades, but we’ve fallen away from it. School counselors need to be armed with statistics on what future tradesman can earn in each type of trade that they are interested in. Scholarships and proper funding need to be available to assist those students who require financial aid. Students need to be incentivized to join this line of work- our society depends on it!

#3 Apprenticeships and Mentorships

Everyone needs a person to look up to teach them the trades. Successful tradespeople should reach out to the next generation and teach them everything that they know. The apprenticeships are the gateway into a lucrative and successful career in the construction trades.

Lowe’s is leading the way with the creation of Generation T which serves as a “national marketplace for jobs, apprenticeships, and education programs.” People can search for opportunities for training, mentorships and jobs in their area simply by searching via their zip code. This is a great step to bringing awareness to this growing problem and being part of the solution.

As a Denver lumber company that has been on the scene for 45 years, we have seen our society go through many changes. This is one of the more concerning trends that we have seen and we know that we have to play our part of encouraging a solution for the skilled trades gap. We hope to be a voice of support for the future generation of tradespeople in our industry!