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The Skilled Trade Dilemma Facing Manufacturers: A Shortage of Job Candidates


Over the next two decades, nearly two million skilled trade jobs will go unfilled, yet more than 30% of high school graduates are not going to college. So why are manufacturers facing such a need for skilled entry-level employees? The answer may lie in the stigma surrounding so called “blue collar” jobs.

According to recent surveys, only about one-third of parents would encourage their child to pursue a career in the trades, with most citing low wages and high turnover as the reasons. However, according to Anthony Carnevale, Director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, approximately 20% of certified skilled tradesmen and 30% of Associate Degree holders will make more money throughout their careers than those with Bachelor Degrees. Furthermore, jobs requiring trade skills are expected to increase almost as much as professional technical jobs in Washington state over the next 10 years!

But what good is having these jobs open if there is no one to fill them? According to Washington’s Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction (OSPI), the unemployment rate of people ages 16-25 has nearly doubled in the last few years, leading to manufacturing companies crying out for entry-level employees while millennials are simply crying for a paycheck.

What can be done to fix this employment disparity? A renewed focus on career and technical training programs in high schools and beyond can help, as well as encouragement by educators and parents for  recent graduates to pursue careers in skilled trades. For more analysis on the local manufacturing environment, check out the results of our 2017 BP Pulse | A Distribution and Manufacturing Survey, where experts weigh in workforce issues.

The good news is that our state has more than 30 technical and/or trade schools offering certifications or degrees varying from commercial and industrial maintenance, to welding and machining, at a fraction of the time and financial cost of a traditional college or university. These programs can be a great resource for companies looking to fill an employment gap. For more information on local trade programs, view the resources linked below.

Click HERE for a list of schools graduating students with the skills your company needs.


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