The New Generation of Skilled Tradespeople
Over the past decade or so, I’ve been hearing a lot about the need to get more young people into skilled trades like welding and electrical. If you look at the statistics, most of the people in those positions are in their 50s and 60s and looking to retire soon — and there aren’t enough 20-somethings who are ready and willing to take their place. From my perspective, the statistics are true. The younger set just doesn’t think this is the career for them. The mean age in our shop is from the mid 40s to the early 50s. On one hand, I could wring my hands and say, “well, that’s the world we live in.” But I also know that we’re growing too fast to do that. We have to keep bringing in talent and helping them develop. Another thing I hear is that recruiting younger employees is tough because they don’t want to work hard. I can’t say I agree with that. We have brought in some young talent and I’ve been really happy with the result. We give them challenges and they rise to the occasion. I’ve been really surprised and excited. It’s a fun aspect of my job to see that happen.
These fresh faces are teaching me that a lot of people are wrong when they say this generation that’s coming up now has been coddled and doesn’t know how to get by on their own. Oh, I’m sure there are some that fit that category. Maybe I fit that category 50 years ago, too! But back then no one labeled it as “Gen Z” or whatever the term is now. It was just typical stuff when you’re a kid. But a lot of these kids are special. I’m really impressed by the younger employees’ work ethic, their interest level, and their enthusiasm. You can’t bottle that. I wish I could. It’s something else to see a young person whose goal in life is to be a welder and they’ll do it over and over again trying to get better and better. Of course, I can understand why a parent wants their kid to go to college and get a degree instead of going into a trade. But I also encourage you to keep an open mind. Perhaps what I have to say here might actually change your mind. You see, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 60-plus years on this planet, it’s that happiness is not easy to figure out. If you give that technical training a shot, you might be able to find happiness quicker — rather than going to college and then finding out that the path you’ve been on is not for you. If it isn’t your cup of tea, you can take the other path without investing a lot of time and money. And if it is your cup of tea, and you put the same energy into it that you would have put into your college degree, you can make the same amount of money. Perhaps more. It’s not a six-figure salary, but the potential to make high five figures. If you can get a job that pays that well — and you don’t have to take on a lot of debt — that’s a pretty good return on your investment.
I think people are starting to realize the shortage, and to respect the opportunities this kind of career brings. When you pay someone more, and the world sees that, they have value added. In the early days, I don’t think people knew what the salary would be for a metal fabrication shop employee. Now that it’s become more public what people make, it will hopefully attract more people to these jobs.
This subject matter is being talked about more and more. There was an article on NPR a while back. You can check it out here. A local trade organization is starting to address some of the shortage in the construction industry with a training program to help people transition into a trade or gain basic knowledge, skills, and training for a career in construction. Check out the news story about it here.
Until next time,