As a champion of the skilled trades, I’m pulled toward articles, facts, figures, and people who shed light on the skilled trades gap- the number of skilled trades positions open versus the number of people qualified and willing to apply for those positions.

Time and time again, I find it’s assumed that readers know the definition of skilled trades when that’s not always the case. Especially if the reader is not from a family of skilled trades workers, defining what the phrase ‘skilled trades’ mean is often assumption-based.

What Are Skilled Trades?

This is a piece about what the skilled trades are at their very core, and the definition of skilled trades provided by the College & Career Access Center is the best way to start:

“Skilled trades are occupations that require a special skill, knowledge, or ability which can be obtained at a college, technical school, or through specialized training. Skilled trades provide an alternative to jobs that require four years of [a] college education. While skilled trades can be separated into many areas such as manufacturing, technology, energy, and healthcare, they are generally divided into the following three categories:”

  1. Skilled Industrial Trades: welders, machinists, mechanics, tool and die makers, programmers
  2. Skilled Construction Trades: electricians, plumbers, gasfitters, carpenters, bricklayers, technicians, insulators
  3. Skilled Service Trades: nurses, aides, orderlies, therapists, service technicians lists the most popular trades as carpentry, electrician, welder level “C,” cement mason, geothermal heating technician, heavy equipment operator, rig technician, boilermaker, pipefitter, formwork technician, and collision repair technician. Click here to view this list and once you’ve done that, click on the trade to discover more information about it.

Why Should We Champion Skilled Trades?

Now that we’ve defined ‘skilled trade’ and learned examples of careers that fall within that bubble, let’s talk about why skilled trades are a sector of our world everyone should champion.

The Skills Gap in U.S. Manufacturing 2015 and Beyond report predicts that by 2025 3.4 million manufacturing positions will exist and of those, 2 million will go unfilled. The problem is not the lack of capable people. The problem is not companies with projects and customers. No. The problem is the number of people who want to pursue the skilled trades arena.

Why is there a skilled trades gap? Why are 2 million open positions projected to go unfilled when skilled trades positions like that of a boilermaker earn an average of $27.18 per hour, and a dental hygienist earns an average of $38.10 per hour?

Answers to the above questions range from a cultural shift toward revering a traditional four-year college education as a better, not an optional, post-high school pursuit to an unfamiliarity with the skilled trades and manufacturing-based companies of today, not that of a generation or two ago.

There are countless pieces, many of which I’ve written, on why a skilled trades gap exists. This is why I want to shift the conversation toward who is called to fill that gap and be part of a career field that is the literal and figurative backbone of the world. If I wrote an advertisement for a skilled trades position from an emotional perspective, it would go a little something like this:

WANTED: Men and women with unwavering work ethics. Those who see value in what they create and execute intelligence. People who problem-solve like MacGyver and demonstrate patience like Mahatma Gandhi. Individuals determined to give their best and to become their best at their expertise and position. Employees who believe their work is part of the legacy of their company and community. Work-related qualities: Salt-of-the-earth. Dependable. Loyal. Tenacity. Curiosity. Humility. Communicator.

Those working within skilled trades are essential to both the maintenance and evolution of our country. Our homes. Our roads. Our products. Our health. Our vehicles. Skilled trades workers, you are appreciated… you are valued… and so many of us, including myself, are unbelievably grateful to you.

Author: Evelyn Lindell