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The Struggle Bus of hiring trade workers is real. Where have they all gone?

By Kevin Bartley, Division Manager with Nexus 5 Group

The mechanical division has the most employees in the group, so you can imagine what I have to go through to hire new employees. (Especially with the rate of growth we’re experiencing.) I’ve been in this business for 25 years, and I've never experienced anything like today’s job market.

We seem to be on the struggle bus when trying to find new employees.

In previous years, (pre-pandemic) I would generally have a pile of resumes and applications to choose from. And today, I check our hiring software daily to see if we’ve gotten an applicant. I can’t imagine that all the trade workers that used to be available have moved away or just don’t want to work anymore.

My question to everyone reading this… Is this just my perception or does everyone else see the same thing I’m seeing in the labor market?

My fear is that we won’t be able to staff the trades over the next 20 years.

Will the construction industry be crippled by not having workers to do the actual building? I recently read an article that said the construction industry will lose 1.2 million workers to other industries in 2022. It also stated that the average age of the construction worker fell 8% in the last decade and 14% since 2000. (Workers aren't staying in the industry as long as they used to, and there are not enough people coming in to fill the growing needs.)

Apparently, we need to add 650,000 new entry level jobs this year to just sustain the industry. Is this even possible in today’s job market?

Schools have abandoned conventional Vo-Tech (Vocational-Technical) classes for more “Career Pathway” classes. By doing this, they are eliminating the kids that might have wanted to enter the construction industry. These Career Pathway classes include more and more technology-based learning. Teaching kids to code at a young age is an actual thing now.

Every technology-based company needs physical buildings and infrastructure as well. I just hope ten years down the line that we have the trade workers who can build the office buildings, distribution centers, factories, and warehouses they need… and the architects and engineers to design them.

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