The Needle Begins to Move on the Skilled Trades Gap

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter

Wait, Did You Feel That?

The needle began to move on the skilled trades gap.

Don’t look now, but the problem you’ve known about for a generation, the lack of people coming into the skilled trades, is finally going mainstream.

It’s subtle, but change is beginning to show.

Source: This Old House

First there are the local advocates, who have been talking about the problem for years. You know them, they’re in your local Union Hall, Welding School, or in the rapidly dwindling number of High School Vo-Tech programs. Or they’re part of the increasingly aging workforce itself, all too aware that there are more of them retiring than entering the workforce, and hanging around looking for someone to step up.

And there are now countless local efforts. Here in Northeast Ohio, the Cuyahoga Community College launched a mobile workforce training center. Tri-C customizes it with virtual welders, CNC machines or other demos as the employer or school needs. Also in the Cleveland area, Lincoln Electric, whose Carl Peters is an advocate for training program development, recently capped off the framing of their new, $30 million welding technology center project.

Nationally the news is just as encouraging. Mike Rowe, who has capitalized on his TV fame to promote the trades through his foundation, is getting ready to take applications for 2017 scholarships. He’s also a great social media follow, and recently testified before congress.

Even more promising, This Old House, the venerable PBS show, launched Generation Next a partnership with MikeRoweWORKS designed to highlight the jobs available in the skilled trades and destigmatize these jobs for today’s youth.

NPR’s excellent Marketplace program recently had several in-depth features on training skilled workers, produced by senior education correspondent Amy Scott.

Plus, there are the national groups dedicated to the trades, Skills USA, Manufacturing Day and more.

So what are you doing? What plan does your company have, and how effectively is it implemented? A few places to get started/re-energized:

  • Find national and local training programs with Sonnhalter’s list
  • Approach local schools and investigate opportunities to show off the work you do by participating in Manufacturing Day
  • Don’t let everyone leave early at your next trade show’s student day. Instead, find out what schools are coming and be proactive
  • Work with your Trade Organization or Union, volunteer to be a part of their training efforts

There have never been more resources and creative thinking addressing this looming crisis. Is it enough? Probably not, but the needle has moved, and it’s in your company’s best interest to do what you can to help build momentum.

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