The jobs of the future are, in part, the jobs of the past: Work for electricians, carpenters, and plumbers could help fix the labor shortage.
As millions of Americans reevaluate their careers during the pandemic and quit their jobs, skilled trades that typically offer higher pay and on-the-job training may be a promising new career choice.
A new annual report from Angi, a marketplace for home services, highlights not only the situation of skilled trades during the pandemic but how skilled trades could take advantage of the so-called Great Resignation in other industries.
“If home trades recognize the connection between what their trades offer and what workers are seeking during the Great Resignation, we could begin to see a narrative change around trade labor and start to reverse the labor shortages that have impacted the trades for years,” the report said.
The report suggests people in skilled trades are happy with their work — Angi said that 83% of tradespeople it surveyed said they were at least somewhat satisfied.
“So when two-thirds of the labor force aren’t engaged in their work, this is an area where people should be going because it’s booming,” Mischa Fisher, Angi’s chief economist, told Insider.
Angi said there’s a demand for these workers because of booming markets in homes and home improvement during the pandemic. An analysis of job data from the industrial-staffing agency PeopleReady also indicated this demand.
Even before the pandemic, there was a shortage of skilled trade workers.
Kevin Ponder, the construction director at PeopleReady Skilled Trades, told Insider that some baby boomers had decided to retire early because of the pandemic. A shortage of workers in construction has also contributed to a record backlog of homes authorized but not started.
Skilled-trade employers need to change how they attract talent
About 46% of skilled-trade employers surveyed by Angi said they recruited workers by word-of-mouth recommendations. But Fisher said this may not be very effective for finding new workers.
“For the most part, tradespeople know other tradespeople, and so word of mouth — it’s a very closed ecosystem,” Fisher said. He added that recruiters should instead increase their digital presence.
Fisher said recruiters needed to change their messaging as well. Many of the tradespeople in Angi’s survey said they were satisfied with their work mainly because they found meaning and value in it. But that isn’t being prioritized in recruitment efforts, as indicated in the chart below.
Employers should communicate that “people really like this work — you’re going to like your job if you do this,” Fisher said. “And so both the message and the medium have to be improved.”
Ponder added that trades needed to highlight benefits like receiving good compensation and getting paid while learning on the job through an apprenticeship program and without the burden of student loans.
The following table shows the typical education, training, and pay in some trades:
|OCCUPATION||MEDIAN ANNUAL WAGE, MAY 2020||TYPICAL EDUCATION NEEDED||TYPICAL ON-THE-JOB TRAINING|
|Brickmasons and blockmasons||$55,080||High school diploma or equivalent||Apprenticeship|
|Carpenters||$49,520||High school diploma or equivalent||Apprenticeship|
|Carpet installers||$41,480||No formal educational credential||Short-term on-the-job training|
|Construction laborers||$37,890||No formal educational credential||Short-term on-the-job training|
|Electricians||$56,900||High school diploma or equivalent||Apprenticeship|
|Painters, construction and maintenance||$42,130||No formal educational credential||Moderate-term on-the-job training|
|Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters||$56,330||High school diploma or equivalent||Apprenticeship|
|Roofers||$43,580||No formal educational credential||Moderate-term on-the-job training|
Fisher added that employers needed to make more of an effort to hire women and people of color, as skilled trades are predominantly white men. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020 women made up only 3.1% of electricians; 2.3% of plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters; and 3.8% of construction laborers. More than 86% of construction laborers were white.
Fisher said people in skilled trades were looking for a “willingness to work hard, willingness to learn, customer-service skills, planning, craftsmanship skills,” adding, “There’s no reason why we couldn’t see that rate of women in the trades be much, much higher.
Ponder said that if you’re interested in being outside or building something that will be around for years, “you get that in construction, you get that in the skilled trades.”
“And that’s an opportunity where you get to see something that you’ve done that may be here 20, 30, 40 years later, and be able to look at your kids or grandkids and say, ‘I was a part of that,'” Ponder added.
“So many people that I saw start off at barely over minimum wage, 10 years later they were running million-dollar projects because they worked hard and they learned, and there’s just not a lot of industries out there that still have that flexibility and freedom to allow you to grow based on what you’re learning on the job,” Ponder said.