Wisconsin PHCC

Where will you get your next Tech?

The following article was posted in the December 4th Wisconsin PHCC Pipeline newsletter and was worth sharing.

Much has been written about the skilled worker shortage.  Frankly, it’s hard to believe that there could be a shortage when it wasn’t that long ago that plumbers and HVAC technicians were working short weeks or being laid off.  If that group simply returned to the industry, there would be plenty of skilled tradespeople, right?  Sadly, many aren’t coming back.

The problem that existed a few years ago – recruiting young people to the trades – still exists today, but it was disguised somewhat by the reduced demand for workers during the weak economy of the past few years.  Now that things have picked up, the urgency has returned.

Governor Walker, in a speech earlier this week, committed to making two-year technical degrees and apprenticeship training a priority.  Surveys show that there are jobs available, but that there is a mismatch between the skills of our workforce and the types of jobs with openings.

Here’s a sobering statistic:  For every four skilled workers that leave the construction industry, only one enters the field.  If things don’t change, there won’t be anyone to train….

One contractor has come up with a pilot program to introduce young people to the trades.  The “Ride & Decide” program pairs students with various trade contractors to provide paid jobs during schools’ breaks.  While the trades may not be for everyone, the “Ride and Decide” program helps young people get a first-hand look at the industry.  A high school counselor said this of the program:  “We’re moving into in area that’s going to have a major shortage. This is going to give students the knowledge and the tools to make a better informed choice about what they want to do.”

Another program of interest is the Boy Scouts of America and their merit badge programs in plumbing, welding, and other technical trades.  Scouts are invited to visit with local businesses and try hands-on demonstrations highlighting the work done by plumbers and HVAC mechanics.  The hope is that this exposure to the trades might lead some of the Scouts to pursue a trade and technical track in high school and a technical degree or apprenticeship after high school.

The take-away from all of this is that there are some new and interesting ideas about how the industry can attract and retain its future workforce.  What are you doing in your business and community?  Lets get a dialogue going about this important industry issue!