The Skills Gap Means Opportunity

The shortage of skilled trade workers is a global problem, not just limited to the U.S. and our North American neighbors. Manpower Group is an employment organization that conducts an annual survey with some 14,000 participants in 15 countries. Their latest survey, conducted last year and covering 2019, showed that an all-time high of 54% of companies report talent shortages. That percentage has steadily risen from 30% a decade before in 2009.

Of particular interest is that year after year, the number one job category in short supply is the skilled trades – HVAC technicians, plumbers, electricians, welders, etc. Pay scales are going up in accordance with a basic law of economics: when demand is greater than supply, pay rises. But it is not only pay that attracts skilled trade workers.

The Manpower survey found that 89% of the people surveyed in the U.S. valued additional benefits as much as pay. Besides paid vacation and health care, other desirable benefits include autonomous working conditions (without a boss breathing down your neck every minute), flexible hours, tuition reimbursement, student loan repayments, etc. Not every trade employer will offer all of the above, but you’ll find a lot more doing so than in bygone times when the supply of skilled labor was more abundant.

I spent 34 years covering skilled trade work as a journalist and still have friends among them. If I ask any owner of an organization employing skilled trade workers what is their biggest problem, I guarantee that 90% of the time their answer would be along the lines of, “finding good people.”

Some would say, “finding experienced trade workers,” but the truth is that many have given up on that quest. There aren’t enough experienced trade workers available, and just because someone has experience doesn’t mean he or she is capable of performing well in today’s environment. Some old-timers refuse to adapt to new technologies, products and procedures. That’s why an increasing number of trade employers are looking for trainees more than experience, i.e., “good people” who come to them without ingrained bad work habits and/or can’t get along well with bosses, customers and co-workers.

If you regard yourself as a “good person” with mechanical aptitude and a willingness to learn, plenty of opportunity beckons. In my next blog, I’ll let you in on a little secret of how to nail a job interview and land a position with a top-notch employer.