For years now we have all read about the shortage of qualified personnel coming into the HVAC industry. In fact, that shortage extends to virtually all the construction trades. According to an affiliate Of the National Association of Manufacturers, the average age of a trade person today is 56. In addition, they estimate at present there are 600,000 skilled jobs going unfilled, and that by 2020, there will be a need for 10 million new skilled workers. If nothing is done to meet these needs, construction costs of all types will increase and wait times for consumers will increase. Without better training programs for those entering the trades, the quality of construction could decrease as well.
This has attracted the attention of everyone from Congress to Mike Rowe (host of Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs) to the creators of This Old House. In fact, This Old House Ventures, LLC very recently announced the launch of a new charitable campaign, Generation Next, which has the goal of encouraging and empowering young people to join the skilled trades. All funds raised by the Generation Next campaign will be given to mikeroweWORKS, a 501©(3) foundation that rewards people with a passion to get trained for skilled jobs that actually exist. (http://profoundlydisconnected.com/)
This should give you a feeling for the magnitude of this issue. It should also create within you an urgency to become part of the solution! It’s not enough to rail about the problem or to applaud efforts like those discussed above. It’s time to stand in front of the mirror and ask yourself, as a veteran member of the construction trades, what are you doing about it. “But I’m just a small guy,” you say. “What can I do to make a difference?” We’re glad you asked, consider the following.
- Support efforts to increase education. This means volunteering to speak at local high schools, junior highs and even elementary schools about the value of the construction trades and the great careers that reside there. Partner with local vocational technical schools that are committed to turning out qualified students. Participate in trade or other organizations at the local or national level that promote the recruitment, hiring and training of young people for the construction trades.
- Look to hire individuals from displaced sectors of the economy who have a proven work ethic. This can range from workers in the oil and gas field to veterans transitioning back to civilian life. In addition, don’t overlook the opportunity for adding women to your workforce. The technical trades can represent a great opportunity for young women with a STEM (science, technology engineering and math) background coming out of college. For example, career pay ranges for a college-educated individual with a math degree range from $30,000-$50,000, whereas opportunities for these individuals in the construction trades could easily lead them to earn a six-figure salary.
- Make sure your own training programs are up to date, comprehensive and forever! Lunging at training by offering a few employees a class here and a class there won’t get it.
- Make sure your pay and benefits reflect the professionalism that you expect of these employees. You can’t recruit on the basis of industry opportunity on the one hand and expect results if you are only willing to offer starting pay of $20,000-$30,000 a year with no opportunities for upward mobility.
In short, solving this monumental problem in the construction trades isn’t someone else’s problem, it’s everyone’s problem. Get on board and become part of the solution!
When will my house be finished?