If you’re engaged in the skilled trades, either as an entrepreneur or a craftsman for hire, you may not have time to read this article. You’re simply too busy working.
As the new year dawned this January, the federal government released a report showing the national economy added a strong 312,000 jobs in the final month of 2018. This was stronger than analysts were expecting. Furthermore, manufacturing jobs are growing at a staggering 714 percent faster in recent years than it did earlier this decade. This all adds up to heady days for those in the skilled trades.
One reason, of course, for the soaring demand for skilled trades is the solid economy. With low inflation and interest rates under control, businesses of all types and sizes have the confidence to expand. This creates an ongoing need for craftsmen and skilled trades workers to build new offices, plants and other facilities.
Another reason is that during the Great Recession of 2008 and the slow recovery that followed, the skilled trades workforce shrank. Many found jobs in other fields. Fewer young people entered the trades, instead choosing to enter college and the professional workforce. Those who remained in the trades began to age. For every five that retired, only one new skilled trades worker replaced him or her. Eventually, that created a shortage at the same time demand for skilled trade services arose. As a result, companies have had to offer ever higher wages to find and retain skilled trades workers and small business trades contractors had more work orders than they could fulfill.
For those in the trades, this certainly seems like a Golden Age. The sky is the limit… you can write your own ticket… all the cliched sayings hold true.
With high starting wages and plenty of jobs to go around, we’ve seen a sharp reversal in the attitude towards the skilled trades. At one time not long ago, high schools focused their curriculums on preparing students for college. Of course, that overlooked the fact that not every teenager either wants to go to college or is college material. As a result, millions of American youths went to college, received often-unmarketable degrees and accumulated staggering debts which many simply cannot afford to repay.
High schools and community colleges across the nation are now recognizing the futility of the old strategy of preparing every student to attend a four-year college. Shop classes, once ridiculed, are making a dramatic comeback across the nation to teach a new generation the skilled trades. In fact, not only are high schools bringing back shop classes, a growing number of school districts are opening specialized high schools devoted to highly focused career training. Students at these specialized schools can learn computer programming, culinary arts, and even the skilled trades. Best of all, once they graduate, students can get a high-paying trades job and not incur a big debt.
Businesses themselves are getting in to the act. Companies are now partnering with schools and local governments to develop a new generation of skilled workers. What does the future hold for skilled trades workers? Obviously, no one can predict with 100 percent accuracy what tomorrow will bring. The current strong economy will someday end as all bull runs do. Today’s red-hot wages will cool eventually. However, America and the business world have realized that skilled trades and manufacturing are a necessary and vital part of the economy. For those reasons, expect the good times to last for some time in the skilled trades.