The Skilled Labor Shortage


There is no hiding the fact that New Hampshire and the country in generally are facing a major skilled labor shortage. There are many reasons for this. The majority of your current skilled tradesmen are close to retirement. High Schools have done a poor job of providing kids with options besides a four year degree. In Fact the majority of schools have eliminated traditional shop type classes. From a cultural standpoint kids do not want to work in hard labor type jobs. In a recent article on Builder Online(http://www.builderonline.com/building/trades-subcontractors/special-report-trade-schools-look-to-attract-young-workers_o) review of a  study from  The Federal Reserve notes males in the 21-30 year old  are working “fewer hours today then previous generations and staying home to play video games instead, researchers from Princeton and the University of Chicago argue that “innovations in gaming/recreational computing” explain as much as 79% of the increase.”The construction trades are seen as one the least desirable fields for high school students. In New Hampshire you have the additional burden of higher housing costs and a lower pay scale. Many workers will cross the border to work in Massachusetts for better wages. Brian Miller, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Northern Kentucky notes “the workforce shortages in skilled trades across the nation are builders No 1 issue” he says in many cases contracts to build are being lost as a result of the lack of skilled labor” Colorado has the lowest unemployment rate in the country at just 2.3%. Experts “expect a 38% increase in vacancies in the construction trades by 2025. The office of Economic Development notes if trained workers do not show up, “it will impede the rate at which the economy can grow.” Not just in Colorado and Kentucky the same dire predictions are heard from construction trade groups across the country including New Hampshire & New England.

Many Architecture firms across the country continue to grow in this current cycle. With experts not seeing a slow down till late 2019. On the AIA website https://www.aia.org/ The AIA’s monthly architecture billings index states “ for January 2018 firms are starting the new year with strong billings with an above 50 rating, it’s score rose to 54.7 in all areas except the Northeast which in part may be due to the recent severe cold snap.” However there are concerns according to some work on the board participants “there are real delivery problems in construction exerting upward price pressures on Projects, an 8 person office located in the northeast  notes.” On the west coast a similar voice is being heard with a 101 person office expressing concern about the “cost of construction depressing new starts in the downtown area.” There is growing concern that the shortage of skilled labor in the trades will be leading cause of a downturn in projects being constructed if the industry, schools, and our current cultural attitude towards the trades don’t change.

Many organizations and individuals are working hard to change the perception of the skilled labor market. Heritage Plumbing & Heating of Auburn, NH offers own trade school to train new employees for free. In addition they have recently added 2 $ 3,000.00 scholarships to high school students interested in careers in heating, plumbing, and HVAC. Mike Rowe of the famed TV show Dirty Jobs is a strong advocate for the trades. In 2017 along his scholarship program aided 240 students pursue career training He recently appeared before a Congressional panel for career and technical education. Sam Costanzo writes in http://www.nhbr.com/January-19-2018/The-skilled-labor-shortage-causes-and-solutions/ “Mike Rowe states his belief that combination of factors has left a negative image about hands on, blue collar work.”” Today’s students are left with the idea a four year degree is the only path to success” “you have to make the trades inspirational again.” Many other organizations and business across the country are offering similar incentives to draw young people into skilled labor careers.

A great misconception many young people have regarding the skilled trades regards the perceived lack of pay and benefits. In the olden days that may have been true. Have you tried hiring a plumber/ carpenter/electrician lately? Ouch, comes to mind at how much they cost per hour. A recent report by the AGC reports entry level pay is 12-20 dollars per hour and can triple within 3 years. The nationwide average is $ 28.55 per hour. The top one quarter of construction workers such as plumbers, supervisors, electricians earn at least $75,000 per year plus benefits. A VP of construction may earn over $100,000 per year. These are real numbers that will allow a worker to earn a good living without the high cost investment of a 4 year college degree. We are encouraging our high school aged son to look at the trades as an option.


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