Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster, aliens, and Skilled Trades Workers. What do they have in common? They all have unique traits and characteristics, and are extremely difficult to find! Just as the TV show investigators out on the hunt for these cryptids jump with excitement when they hear a sound in the woods in the middle of the night that “could be a Sasquatch (or a coyote!),” recruiters get just as excited when they’ve finally found a qualified electrician, machinist, or welder!
One of the reoccurring challenges that many of Select International’s manufacturing clients report is their struggle to find quality skilled trades workers. And they are not alone. In fact, it is a global problem. With the retirement of more and more baby boomers has come a large shortage of skilled trades workers. The projected forecast on the horizon for these jobs suggests that the skills gap is only likely to continue to get worse over time.
Nearly half or more of the skilled-trade workforce in the U.S. are middle-aged, many nearing retirement age. In certain geographic areas the aging population is more prevalent, causing even larger gaps in skilled-trades workers in particular parts of the U.S. as well as globally. Given the nature of most skilled-trades jobs being physical, some aging workers find it more difficult to extend their tenure and many retire earlier than most other jobs.
Another factor affecting the lack of skilled-trades workers is that U.S. high schools trend toward college-prep work and fail to position vocational school in the same manner. Enrollment in college has continually been on the increase, while enrollment in technical or vocational schools has not seen that same rise.
So what are companies to do?
While there appears to be no “one size fits all” solution to this problem, a few things that some companies have done include:
Develop close relationships with local trade and vocational schools- some companies have partnered with specific vocational or trade schools in their area and have become “part” of their program by offering internships, onsite training, etc. They view it as a way to start building a base of interested candidates before graduation rolls around.
Develop in-house mentoring/apprenticeship programs- another avenue being pushed by some companies is a stronger emphasis on offering apprenticeship programs for internal employees who are interested in learning a skilled trade. They’re already familiar with processes and procedures, so “students” in those programs already bring a good knowledge base to the table.
Expand recruiting strategies- the shortage in skilled trades has essentially forced many companies to look far beyond their local areas to identify and “head hunt” qualified skilled trades professionals.
Incentives/rewards for skilled trades employee referrals- another trend is for companies to offer attractive incentive and rewards programs for current employees who refer qualified skilled trades workers to the company.
Bite the bullet and offer higher wages- with the shortage in skilled trades workers, those with the proper skills, qualifications, and experience can be much more selective about the jobs they consider, pay being a primary factor. In order to get the talent and resources needed to do the jobs, many companies are revisiting budgets and just biting the bullet and offering a higher pay scale for these positions; even for fresh recruits right out of technical school.
What companies shouldn’t do:
Although many companies are facing the pressures of a need to fill a position asap, one thing that they shouldn’t do, despite these pressures, is to compromise what they’re looking for. Accepting a candidate who simply has the technical knowledge or looks good on paper typically never ends well in the long run. Thorough pre-employment screening and assessments may uncover that the “ideal” candidate who possesses all of the technical know-how may not play well with others and cause a lot of issues on the job with their peers. Or, there may be certain areas that are more “coachable” than others and employers shouldn’t rule out a candidate if they appear to be lacking in a specific area. As we always advocate, the cost of a bad hire is not worth the risk; something that many employers may not initially perceive.
So, if one night at a bar you see Big Foot, Nessie, an alien, and a qualified electrical technician, grab your phone, snap a photo and send it off to a manufacturing recruiter ASAP!