A Skilled Worker's Shortage

The baby boomer population is starting to reach the age of retirement, which begs the question, who will carry on the skills of the trades that built this country? We are facing a shortage of skilled workers and that gap will continue to grow if attention is not paid to vocational schools and the students who want to learn a specific skill. There will always be a need for college graduates to fill the positions where a scientific degree is required. But what about those positions where a technical vocation can be a rewarding career path? Where has the skilled labor gone and how do we get it back?

At the ConExpo show held in Las Vegas last month, Mike Rowe was present in the Caterpillar booth and he was discussing his latest project, MikeRoweWORKS Foundation and his book Profoundly Disconnected, A True Confession from Mike Rowe which addresses the growing skills gap in this country.

In the book, Rowe contends the cause of the growing skills gap is the result of a narrow view of education in that any training or study which does not come with a  four-year degree is deemed “alternative”.

“We need people who see opportunity where opportunity exists,” Rowe says. “We need enthusiasm for careers that have been overlooked and under appreciated by society at large. We need to have a really big national conversation about what we value in the workforce.”

Let’s take a look at what a skilled worker looks like in 2014.

Today’s skilled worker knows how to build, fix and install.

Today’s skilled worker is computer literate, they have to be since some equipment is operated by a computer program.

The three R’s, “reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic” isn’t just a lyric in the 1907 song, "School Days (When We Were a Couple of Kids)", these are skills needed to read project plans and execute the build. 

Finding qualified, skilled workers is challenging, but in reality, there is no reason for a shortage in skilled workers. We need to do a better job at displaying the viable and rewarding career path for those who choose occupations in the trades.

The mikeroweWORKS Foundation promotes supporting the skilled trades by awarding scholarships to young men and women who have an interest and talent to mastering a specific trade. Qualified candidates include students who want to advance their education through an accredited trade school or apprenticeship program. According to Rowe, the Foundation has created more than $1.6 million in education scholarships around the country.

While this might not be the complete resolution to the problem, it’s certainly a start. Skilled workers built America and as citizens it is our responsibility to make sure America keeps building.

Take a look at our Cover Story, page 40 to see how one contractor managed to achieve angled and curved walls, while also devising a clever plan to pour two different colored concrete at the same time.

Skilled labor helped to place and finish floors with high F-min tolerances all because of a well-trained crew and quality equipment, page 14.

Doug Herbert of Herbert Construction Co. turned a custom footing forming system into a competitive advantage, page 34.

These projects and ideas are a result of skilled labor and that’s something to talk about.