October 20, 2016
The trade shortage is a global problem
It’s not just here in the U.S. Employers around the world are finding it hard to recruit enough skilled trade workers – harder than any other field. The latest Talent Shortage Survey by ManpowerGroup that was just released sampled more than 42,000 employers in 43 countries and found more than 40% are experiencing difficulty finding qualified workers in various categories. Skilled trades were cited as the most difficult positions to fill for the 5th consecutive year in both North America and worldwide.
Although the survey doesn’t delve into the reasons for the skilled trade shortage, they likely are similar to the explanations most often offered here in the U.S. These include pressures from parents, peers and school counselors to go to college, coupled with the perception – often erroneous or exaggerated – that trade work is dirty, dangerous and lacking in prestige.
Why should you care that trade employers in Asia or South America face the same difficulties as American trade contractors? For one thing, it means that it’s hard for U.S. employers to hire immigrants to fill the skilled trades gap. There aren’t enough of them to flood our markets and drive down labor rates. That spells more job opportunities and earning power for home-grown skilled trade workers.
The survey also turned up some interesting findings about how employers are adjusting to the shortages. The most popular tactic is training and developing workers in-house, followed by recruiting from outside the available talent pool. They are also offering higher salaries and benefits.
All of these methods have parallels with the skilled trades here in the U.S. Decades ago most skilled trade workers received their training in union-affiliated apprenticeship programs. While these programs are still around, the union share of skilled trade work has dropped dramatically over the years. To compensate, many plumbing, HVAC and electrical companies have developed their own training programs.
Many employers also look to expand the talent pool by recruiting people from other fields. As long as they have a mechanical aptitude and the willingness to learn a trade, people working as waiters, bartenders, retail clerks and in many other low-paying jobs find that the skilled trades offer the opportunity to earn more money and do more interesting work. Also, the skilled trades increasingly are attracting college graduates dissatisfied with jobs for which they are overqualified academically. Service companies in particular like to take talented people with the right personality and teach them the technical skills of a trade.
And, wages, benefits and perks are steadily on the rise for skilled trade workers in the U.S. It wasn’t too long ago that a six-figure income could only be obtained in the trades by starting your own business. Now it is not unusual for skilled trade workers to generate that kind of income even as employees.
This website is titled “Explore the Trades.” There has never been a better time to do so.
In case you’re wondering, here are the other occupations in short supply around the world, according to the Manpower survey, in order:
- Skilled trades
- IT staff (computer programmers, database managers, etc.)
- Sales reps
- Manufacturing technicians
- Truck drivers
- Accountants and financial analysts
- Executives and managers
- Production machine operators
- Office support staff (administrative assistants, secretaries, etc.)