I’m a news junkie. As a journalist by calling, that’s to be expected. My daily reading list (mostly online nowadays) includes the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Economist magazine, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune (my hometown daily newspapers) and a local suburban newspaper to keep up with neighborhood goings on. Plus, I visit a variety of trade-related websites, along with several science websites. I don’t have enough time to read each one cover-to-cover, but I skim the headlines and pick and choose which articles are of interest or relevant to my writings.
In doing so, hardly a day goes by when I don’t read something that touches upon the shortage of skilled trade workers throughout our economy. I’ve shared some of these stories in previous blogs and here I’ll draw attention to another that just appeared in the Wall Street Journal. The story in the November 16 edition was headlined “Submarine Maker Scopes State for Skilled Workers.” Here’s a link to the story, although I’m not certain you’ll be able to access it if you’re not a paid subscriber.
If not, I’ll summarize a few key points. The article concerns the effort of Electric Boat, a Connecticut-based builder of submarines for the U.S. Navy, to find enough skilled workers to accomplish that task. Its parent company is renowned defense contractor General Dynamics Corp. The story relates that General Dynamics has “expanded its training budget and resurrected a dormant apprentice program as it seeks to fill jobs for welders, pipe fitters and machinists.”
Electric Boat has a $5 billion contract for design work on the U.S. Navy’s next generation of ballistic-missile submarines. The company says it needs to hire 15,000 to 18,000 workers by 2030. Starting pay for apprentices is about $21 an hour, which varies by trade, and that gets bumped up to around $30 an hour upon finishing the program, also depending on the trade.
Electric Boat isn’t the only manufacturing company struggling to find enough skilled workers. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, industrial firms will need to fill some 3.5 million manufacturing job over the next decade. Today’s manufacturing jobs are not like those in the old days, when a small army of people put pieces together on an assembly line. Factories of today are highly automated and employ relatively few people compared with the old days, but those they do employ have to operate and maintain sophisticated robotic machinery. Manufacturers complain of a severe shortage of people needed to do those jobs. Dummies need not apply.
Aside from big manufacturing companies, virtually every small plumbing, HVAC and electrical trade firm in the country has trouble recruiting enough skilled workers. Many of them would like to grow larger, but they can’t find enough skilled craft workers to handle more work.
It’s been a long time since so many opportunities existed for people who are willing to explore the trades. If you’re reading this, it likely means you’re interested. Now take the next step and start getting trained for an exciting and rewarding career.