What Has Happened? Expected "Trade" Skills Gap By 2025

# It is time to close the vocational trades skills gap

"Trade" Vocational Jobs - Estimated Skills Gap Expected By 2025

As we strive toward success, we continue to encourage and actually push for everyone to achieve their goals by getting a bachelor's or master's degree, but at what cost? To indeed be successful, we need every skill. All skills are required to make our world run efficiently, and right now, the skilled trades industry is experiencing a labor shortage, and it's only expected to worsen in the coming years. 

According to a report from Stanley Black & Decker's inaugural Makers Index, few students are likely to consider a career in the trades, and outdated negative perceptions are among the key drivers. This is backed up by another report from BusinessWire, which states that in-demand skilled trade jobs still need to be fulfilled. 


Top Three Factors 

Several factors contribute to the trade labor shortage in the USA, but the top three factors are:

  1. Aging Workforce: Many skilled tradespeople in the USA are approaching retirement age, and there need to be more young people entering the trades to replace them. This means that as older workers retire, there need to be more young workers to fill their positions or we are going to have a problem. According to the NAHB, the average age of a skilled trades worker in the construction industry is 47 years old, and only 3% of workers are under the age of 25 (and that is only one industry).
  2. Perception of Trades Jobs: Many young people in the USA have outdated perceptions of trades jobs, believing they are dirty, physically demanding, and not intellectually challenging. This perception has led to a lack of interest in pursuing a career in the trades, which has contributed to the labor shortage.
  3. Emphasis on Four Year College Education: For decades, there has been an emphasis on four year college education as the only path to success in the USA. Many young people believe that getting a bachelor's or master's degree education is the only path to success, which has led to a shortage of skilled tradespeople. This has led to devaluing vocational trade education, decreasing emphasis on trades jobs, and a lack of respect for the trades industry.


Over 2000 Students Surveyed

The Makers Index report from Stanley Black & Decker surveyed more than 2,000 students. The results showed that only 6% of U.S. students are interested in pursuing a career in the skilled trades. This is despite 74% of students believing that trade jobs are valuable to society and 78% believing that such positions are financially stable. So why aren't more students interested in pursuing a trade career?

One of the key drivers is outdated perceptions. The Makers Index report found that 57% of U.S. students believe that trades jobs are dirty, 40% are physically demanding, and 31% are not intellectually challenging. This is so far from the truth and these perceptions need to be updated and corrected. Today's trades jobs are clean, high-tech, and intellectually stimulating—skilled tradespeople work with sophisticated tools and technologies, requiring problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity.

Bachelor's Degree Is Not The Only Way

Another reason few students are interested in pursuing a career in the trades is the emphasis on four year college education as the only path to success. For decades, the prevailing wisdom has been that a bachelor's degree is essential for a successful career. This has led to a devaluation of trade jobs and a lack of respect for the trade industry as a whole. However, a recent article in Pro Tool Reviews suggests that skipping a four year college and learning a trade can be a viable and rewarding career path. Trade labor is actually one of the best ways to be truly successful: less stress, great pay, and less debt.

The overemphasis on four year college education has led to a significant problem with student debt. Many young people who have pursued a bachelor's degree have taken on considerable debt, which can limit their ability to achieve their financial goals, such as buying a home or starting a business. This debt can also limit their career options, as they may be forced to take a job that pays well enough to service their debt rather than pursue a career they are passionate about. 


It Is Only Going To Get Worse

A recent BusinessWire report states that the skilled trades labor shortage in the U.S. is only expected to worsen in the coming years. In-demand skilled trade jobs, such as electricians, welders, and HVAC technicians, remain unfilled the longest. This has led to a backlog of work; longer customer wait times, and increased business costs. The need for more skilled tradespeople also affects industries such as construction, manufacturing, and automotive repair.



One solution to the skilled trades labor shortage is to encourage more students to pursue a career in the trades. This can be done by changing outdated perceptions, increasing awareness of the opportunities available in the trade industry, and promoting the benefits of learning a trade.

Parents and educators can play a vital role in this effort. By providing accurate information about the trades industry and encouraging students to consider the trades as a viable career path, parents and educators can help close the skills gap and provide the workforce needed to support the economy.

Another solution to the skilled trades labor shortage is to invest in training programs and apprenticeships. By providing on-the-job training and education, businesses can attract and retain skilled tradespeople and ensure they have the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in their careers. This can also help address the issue of student debt, which is a significant concern for many students considering a four year college education. By offering training and education opportunities that do not require significant student debt, businesses and vocational trade schools can provide an attractive alternative to a four year college education.


Significant Problem That Can Be Resolved

The need for more skilled tradespeople has become a significant problem in recent years. According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the labor shortage in the construction industry has become acute, with 87% of builders reporting that they face a shortage of carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and other skilled tradespeople. The situation is similar in the manufacturing sector, where the lack of skilled workers is also causing concern. In a Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute survey, 89% of manufacturing executives reported having trouble filling skilled production positions.

The shortage of skilled tradespeople is not limited to specific industries; it is a problem affecting the entire economy. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be 1.5 million new skilled trades jobs by 2029, but there will need to be more workers to fill these jobs. This means businesses need help completing projects, meeting deadlines, and maintaining quality. In the long run, this could lead to higher costs for businesses and consumers, reduced competitiveness, and slower economic growth.

The need for more skilled tradespeople is not only affecting businesses and the economy, but it is also affecting individuals. Many skilled trades jobs offer high wages, good benefits, and opportunities for advancement, but these jobs must be fulfilled. This means that young people are missing out on potentially lucrative and rewarding career opportunities, and they may be forced to take less fulfilling and less financially rewarding jobs.

To address this shortage and problem, it is necessary to change outdated perceptions of the trades industry, increase awareness of the opportunities available in the trades industry, and invest in training programs, certifications, and apprenticeships. By doing so, we can provide the workforce needed to support the economy and give young people the opportunities they need to succeed. 

It is time we ask ourselves, “What has happened and how can we resolve it?” Recognizing the value of skilled trades jobs and investing in the people who will help to build our future, is vital to our success.