Will Tradesmen Be Safe From the Rise of Automation?

by Relena Jane, guest columnist Article exclusively written for Tradesmen Insights The rise of machinery and automation has been a constant thorn in the side of engineers, machine operatives and even farmers for many years. As far back as the 1700s workers were revolting against the onset of technology. English textile workers rallied against the development and implementation of new machinery. They were known as the Luddites, a term that became synonymous with people who opposed technological advances. It might have taken a couple of centuries, but increased understanding of technology is leading to more automation and AI involvement in our working processes than ever before. Slowly, but surely, machines have taken over from human beings. Think about your supermarket experience and the self-service checkout, or booking cinema tickets using your computer, collecting them from a machine on arrival. Nowadays, algorithms are being used to mark essays in certain parts of the world, something that seemed impossible a decade or two ago. People are being used less and less in all forms of business, customer service and engineering. Will our dependable tradesmen, the plumbers and joiners of this world, be safe from the rise of automation? To answer we have to understand how quickly technology is advancing. Manufacturing is one industry that has been hugely affected. Operatives have become scarcer on production lines, even when dealing with intricate assembly and manufacture of parts such as computer chips. Soon enough, AI will start disrupting this industry for the better, making processes much more efficient and quicker. The complexity of circuit board parts to create new machinery will be no more, and will lead to completely eradicating the need for human intervention. Thus, some areas will always need reactive operatives, but in far fewer numbers than before. 15368read more >

Skills Gap Awareness: Are We Making Progress?

By Rosemarie Ascherl-Lenhard, PR Foreman It’s been a while since we talked about one of our hot buttons: the ongoing skills gap in manufacturing and the trades. It’s good to see that the topic is very much alive and getting continual, positive coverage in the media. Are we slowly experiencing a shift to bring young people back into skilled traded positions? Is the stigma for blue collar positions slowly lifting? Plenty of industry leaders are doing their part to help bring awareness. Lincoln Electric recognizes this issue and is leading the challenge to change the perception of manufacturing jobs, which as CEO Christopher Mapes points out, “When people think about welding, they typically don’t think high-tech. Instead, they picture workers with their heads enveloped in welding helmets. That’s not what welding is today…Welding is robotics. It's metallurgy. It’s software engineering.” Read more about Lincoln’s initiatives for tackling the skill gap here. Skilled trade’s biggest proponent, Dirty Jobs’ Mike Rowe, who recently published, “The Way I Heard It,” believes, “The skills gap today, in my opinion, is a result of the removal of shop class and the repeated message that the best path for most people happens to be the most expensive path.”   While 40 years ago we needed more people to get into higher education, the pendulum swung so far in the direction of promoting higher education, that it has alienated an entire section of the workforce, skilled trades. With 7.3 million skilled jobs unfilled in our country (and 1.6 trillion in debt from higher education), we desperately need the pendulum to swing back. It seems the messaging is starting to get through. This recent article articulates how trade schools are now touting how blue-collar professionals such as plumbers, electricians and mechanics make more money than workers whose roles…read more >

Honoring the Trades, Building the Future

By Rosemarie Ascherl-Lenhard, PR Foreman, Sonnhalter It seems especially appropriate to address the subject of “skills gap” today, the third Friday in September, which is also “National Tradesmen Day.” National Tradesmen Day is a day where we honor the men and women dedicated to maintaining the complex infrastructure of our roads, cities, water systems and power grids. The skills and knowledge of those in the trades–electricians, plumbers, masons, mechanics, carpenters and everyone in between–ensure the jobs get done and businesses, homes and entire nations keep running. While these professionals work day in and out to maintain their skills unique to their trade, the grim reality is that every day qualified workers retire, and the demand for skilled workers grows. In fact, as the country grows, the skilled trades are one of the fastest-growing sectors in the job market today. Their skills and jobs are so valuable, in fact, that training is available in nearly every sector of the skilled trade job market. The problem is there are fewer and fewer students pursuing an education in the trades. Instead, they have been led to believe that it’s necessary to attend a four-year college in order to get a high-paying, satisfying job. It isn’t. There are other paths to a good career. Build Your Future, an organization that aims to be the catalyst for recruiting the next generation of craft professionals, elaborates on the advantages of a career in the skilled trades in this guest post. By 2023, there will be 1.5 million construction jobs that need to be filled. This shortage could be detrimental to the infrastructure and construction projects in America. As the skills gap worsens, those with a lot of knowledge and experience in the crafts will be highly sought out with high-paying opportunities. Following the idea of supply…read more >

Thousands of vocational programs, many ways to connect

By Rosemarie Ascherl-Lenhard, PR Foreman, Sonnhalter We're in the midst of back-to-school season--which prompted us to update our vocational education database. And with the ongoing concern about our nation’s skills gap, the option for choosing an education to pursue a vocational career is certainly an attractive one. With plentiful skilled labor jobs to fill, trade jobs pay very well (sometimes better than four-year college degrees) and don’t saddle students with hefty student loans. We originally released our extensive vocational education database in 2015 after conducting extensive research on thousands of vo-ed programs across the country. When we updated the list in 2017, we added about 1,000 new programs, separating them out by state tabs and standardizing the descriptions to make it even easier to search, sort and use. Our most recent update features nearly 980 schools across the country, not including satellite or branch locations of each. There are almost 4,700 programs, offering different types of degrees or certifications. The types of programs include construction, electrician, robotics, welding, HVAC, plumbing, machine tool technology, among others. A separate tab for national programs and resources is also included. Why would a marketing communications firm take the time to create and update such a resource? We hope our tool helps to bridge the gap between manufacturers and educational programs. The database serves as a useful tool for companies looking to implement more grassroots campaigns to recruit the next generation of professional tradesmen. There are numerous ways to take advantage of a tool like our database. Here are a few suggestions of how to make our work, work for you. 14840read more >

Skills Gap: We’re Between a Rock and a Hard Place

By John Sonnhalter, founder and rainmaker journeyman, Sonnhalter Our workforce is aging faster than we can replace them, especially in the skilled labor category. High schools used to push college as the only viable alternative to higher education. These graduates, with their liberal arts education, come into the workforce with no vocational skills. And individuals who lack the right skills or credentials, land in careers with little or no chance for meaningful advancement. We’ve talked for years, now, about how many of our youth are missing opportunities in the workforce because they were thinking that they had to go to college. Let’s face it, college is not for everyone and for many who go to college, they end up in jobs that have nothing to do with their major. In recent years, the media and the rest of the world have now started to pay attention to the lack of skilled labor to fill loads of trade jobs that, by the way, pay very well (sometimes better than four-year college degrees) and don’t have big student loans to pay back! And electrician, plumber or carpenters jobs can’t be outsourced overseas! Here’s what Mike Rowe has to say about it: 14830read more >

Today is National Tradesmen Day!

Where would we be without them? The unsung heroes of American Industry. At Sonnhalter, we know tradesmen well. They are the customers of the clients we serve. They’re construction workers and maintenance professionals. Electricians and plumbers. On the third Friday in September, National Tradesmen Day honors the men and women whose skills and hard work build America and keep it running strong. National Tradesmen Day is dedicated to the professionals who maintain the complex infrastructure of our roads, cities, water systems and power grids. While these professionals work day in and out maintaining skills unique to their trade, our nation continues to operate smoothly without pause. The skills and knowledge of those in the trades keep business, homes and entire nations running. Whether walls go up or come down, roads cross rivers or the water flows, electricians, plumbers, masons, mechanics, carpenters and everyone in between ensures the job gets done. With their hands, their skills and their tools, they keep America running smoothly.   Please join us by thanking the men and women in the trades. It’s truly a day to celebrate.read more >

Manufacturers May Be the New Nerds? (In a GREAT Way)

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter Remember about 10 years ago? The Lord of the Ring movies had raked in awards (and millions of dollars), San Diego ComicCon became something you heard about, E3 became the trade show you wished you got to go to and The Big Bang Theory debuted, soon to become TV’s #1 show. Suddenly “nerd culture” was all the rage. Writers were penning think pieces about how this was the ultimate victory for the kid that got picked on in high school. TV commentators discussed at length how this was a “cultural shift” and heralded a new age.  Add to that the continued dominance of the Marvel superhero movies, and the last decade has definitely belonged to the kid that read comic books at lunch. Well, I predict that the next decade will be the “Age of the Maker and Manufacturer.”   13871read more >

Sonnhalter Updates Comprehensive List of Nation’s Vocational Education Programs

Agency adds nearly 1,000 programs and other new features to list of more than 20,000 technical programs across the country. CLEVELAND – February 2017 – Sonnhalter, a marketing communications firm to the professional tradesman in the construction, industrial and MRO markets, updated its extensive database of vocational education and technical programs in the United States with new features, including the addition of nearly 1,000 programs. The database, which includes more than 20,000 programs, contains useful and easy-to-read information about each program, including addresses, phone numbers, websites and more. In addition to its new programs, each state in the database is now listed separately, and there is also an updated page for national programs and resources. Other features include more concise and easier to sort course titles. The database serves as a tool for companies looking to implement more grassroots campaigns to recruit the next generation of professional tradesmen. The convenient and easy-to-use database is available for download and is designed to be sortable and searchable for a variety of fields, including program type, location, degree type and other important information. “When Sonnhalter launched the database of vocational and technical programs, we wanted to provide a simple resource that would make it easy for companies to reach out to students interested in becoming professional tradesmen,” said Matt Sonnhalter, vision architect at Sonnhalter. “As we grow and improve our database, we continue to do our part in narrowing the gap between manufacturers and educational programs.” To download Sonnhalter’s updated, comprehensive list of vocational programs in the U.S., visit sonnhalter.com/vocational.read more >

Climbing the Steel Ladder: It’s Never Been a Better Time for Women to Enter the Trades

Today we have a guest post from Kathy Jackson on behalf of the Tulsa Welding School. It’s never been a better time to crash that glass ceiling. Increasing numbers of women are climbing the steel ladder to a successful career in the skilled trades. While many of these jobs have traditionally been viewed as mostly male oriented, employers seeking welders, construction workers, and electrical technicians have been reaching out to women. Industry Growth Jobs in many skilled trades will likely be plentiful in the coming years thanks to growth in these industries. For example, jobs for electricians are expected to increase by 14 percent through 2024. The HVAC field is also expected to expand by 14 percent, notes the below data from Tulsa Welding School. Higher Earning Potential Women who wish to switch from female-dominated fields may find their earnings significantly higher: the average annual wage in childcare is $21,710 versus an average of $40,040 for welders. Or administrative assistants average $34,500 versus HVAC technicians, who average $46,880. Faster, Less Expensive Training Women looking to enter these fields won’t need a four-year university degree either. Most jobs only require a high school diploma and training at an accredited trade school, many of which can have graduates up and running in less than a year. Additionally, the savings in tuition will add up. The difference between a trade school and a four-year degree can be as much as $94,000, and university tuition will likely not be getting any more affordable in the near future. Plus, the Department of Labor announced $1.9 million total in grants as a part of the Women in Apprenticeships and Nontraditional Occupations program. If you’re a woman looking to climb that steel ladder even further, you can work towards positions in management and engineering in the HVAC…read more >

National Manufacturing Day Opens Doors

Today we have a post from Sonnhalter’s PR Engineer, Rachel Kerstetter. I love to celebrate the random, weird holidays. It seems like every day is a celebration of something: National Hug Your Cat Day, International Tree Climbing Day, Corn on the Cob Day, World Toilet Day… and this list goes on. Tomorrow, October 4, is National Manufacturing Day and is much more than just a day on a calendar. National Manufacturing Day is a team effort to change the perception of the industry.read more >