During a time when young people have experienced disruptions to their education and witnessed unprecedented changes in the labor market, it’s understandable that students may feel uncertain about their future careers. The good news is, there are many skilled trades that students may not be fully aware of — and they’re in need of talent. In a National Association of Business Economics (NABE) Business Conditions Survey, nearly half (47%) of the respondents reported a shortage of skilled labor in the third quarter of 2021, up from 32% in the second quarter — and this remains an ongoing situation.
While this labor shortage is certainly a challenge for employers, it’s also an opportunity for students or others looking for a productive and satisfying career path. Many of these positions experiencing shortages require skills in the trades, including jobs such as electricians, HVAC specialists, carpenters, plumbers, welders and automotive mechanics.
“Now is a perfect time for students to consider a career in the skilled trades given the high demand,” said Andy Strom, vice president of Product Development and Manufacturing at Northern Tool + Equipment. “In addition to helping fill the national labor shortage, people who choose to pursue careers in the trades are met with a variety of practical benefits ranging from statistically higher job satisfaction to lower levels of student debt.”
Parents, teachers, career counselors and other mentors can help expand awareness of these opportunities for a career in the trades. Here’s why this could be a great option.
Job satisfaction among the trades is high
According to a study by Angi, the marketplace for home services, 83% of tradespeople reported being either somewhat or extremely satisfied with their choice of work. Taking pride in your skills, and what you are able to build or repair, is a large component of that job satisfaction. Plus, the nature of most trades careers forces the work to be left at the job site at day’s end, allowing for more clarity in work-life balance.
Pursuing a trade leads to less student debt
With the continually rising costs of a four-year college or university education, the idea of training for a career without incurring a mountain of debt is increasingly appealing. A trade school education is typically much less expensive than pursuing a four-year degree, and usually takes less time to complete. In addition, pay for skilled trades workers can be high compared to other vocations, and is becoming increasingly competitive.
Companies needing skilled trades are helping to train the workforce of the future
Some companies are proactively addressing the skilled labor gap by helping to encourage and support students who are interested in careers in the trades. Northern Tool + Equipment recently rolled out a “Tools for the Trades” program in partnership with several schools across Minnesota, with plans to roll out similar programs across the country later this year.
This initiative supports trades programs with donations of professional-grade tools and equipment to improve high schools’ career and technical education programs.
“It’s critical to get students involved with their schools’ trades programs and that’s why we are working hard to provide these important classes with the resources they need,” said Strom. “Trades instructors need quality tools to help lead their classes to prepare for the future of skilled trades, and our hope is these donations further improve the in-class experience and give the students hands-on training experience working with professional-grade equipment.”
The trades are hiring a more diverse workforce
Today’s industries are also looking for more women and people of color to be trained and hired for a wider range of positions than ever before. To that end, many are offering opportunities for training, scholarships and apprenticeships in order to help ensure a more diverse workforce in the future.
The demand for workers is not letting up
A number of factors are contributing to the already-high demand for skilled workers in a variety of trades, including the fact that many older tradespeople have retired or are soon retiring, as well as the sudden surge in industries such as home construction and renovation. In addition, newer fields such as renewable energy are creating more skilled jobs every day. It’s clear that education and training in the trades will help workers stay gainfully employed, now and well into the future.
If you or a member of your family is looking for a career change or are about to begin a career after graduation, consider exploring the opportunities in your area to train for a career in the trades.