Addressing the Skilled Trades Shortage Graphic

Addressing the Skills Trades Labor Shortage: Strategies for Success

Is Your Business Suffering from the Skilled Trades Labor Shortage?

Although the skilled trades industry is booming, a growing skills trades labor shortage threatens to stall its momentum. In places like the city of Pittsburgh, only one plumber is employed by the city despite their best efforts to recruit, attract and hire more talent. The city of Pittsburgh does not find themselves alone when facing the shortage of skilled trades labor. Quality candidates with years of experience are becoming increasingly more difficult to find. As experienced professionals retire and fewer young people enter the field, businesses are scrambling to find this qualified talent. This isn’t just an inconvenience; it’s a full-blown crisis affecting project timelines, costs, and even the quality of work.

With the right strategies, companies can not only survive this shortage but thrive in it. This article dives into the root causes of the labor gap, explores why skilled trades are still a fantastic career path, and outlines actionable recruiting tactics to attract top talent in 2024. As always, you can contact us here for assistance with thriving in spite of the skilled trades labor shortage we are currently facing.

Unraveling the Labor Shortage Puzzle

Several key factors are driving the current shortage:

The Great Retirement Wave:

Baby Boomers, a significant portion of the skilled workforce, are retiring faster than they’re being replaced. According to Legal Jobs, 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every day, and all baby boomers will have passed that age by 2030. Unfortunately, the rate at which younger generations are entering these fields has not kept pace with the number of retirees. This “graying” of the industry is creating a widening gap in the labor pool, as experienced tradespeople hang up their tools without enough skilled successors to take their place. Without enough skilled successors to take their place, finding qualified candidates to hire in the skilled trades industry becomes even more difficult.

The College Conundrum:

Over the past few decades, there’s been a growing societal emphasis on pursuing four-year college degrees as the primary path to success. This focus has, unfortunately, led to a decline in interest and investment in vocational training and apprenticeships. As a result, the pipeline of skilled trades workers has shrunk, exacerbating the labor shortage and leaving many companies scrambling to fill essential roles. Apprentices are becoming easier to attract than years ago, from what we’ve seen while recruiting for our clients; however, the amount of young people ready to join the skilled trades and become apprentices must still increase dramatically in order to keep up with the demand for talent that growing contractors and companies will have.

Outdated Perceptions:

Many young people hold outdated and inaccurate perceptions about careers in the skilled trades. They often view these jobs as low-paying, physically demanding, and lacking in career growth potential. This negative stigma, combined with the allure of white-collar jobs, has discouraged many potential candidates from considering the rewarding and lucrative opportunities available in the skilled trades. Social media can and has been playing a major factor in helping the perception change. Social media influencers like Leggy the Plumber make the skilled trades look attractive again for a generation that may have had negative perceptions. Young people are able to see certain skilled trades workers with passion for their skilled trade as well as how they’re living their lives, which in turn, motivates young people to aspire to be like them. With outdated perceptions changing, the likelihood of more young people joining the skilled trades should increase. Yet, the demand for these young people may continue to grow at a much quicker pace.

Economic Disruptions:

The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the problem, leading to job losses and fewer people entering the field. Once the pandemic came, many skilled trades workers with decades of experience chose to retire, sell their business, or a combination of the two. A dramatic increase in the amount of retirees paired with an already huge demand for younger talent are two factors that find themselves at the center of the recipe for the skilled trades labor shortage. If any additional economic disruptions happen, the skilled trades shortage may increase again. 

Why Skilled Trades Are Still a Smart Career Move

Despite the challenges, the skilled trades remain an incredibly rewarding career path:

Skyrocketing Job Satisfaction:

Nearly 90% of skilled tradespeople report high job satisfaction, citing autonomy, problem-solving, and tangible results as major perks.The skilled trades consistently rank among the most fulfilling career paths. In fact, a recent Forbes article found that a staggering 90% of skilled tradespeople, including plumbers, electricians, and general contractors, report high levels of job satisfaction.

This satisfaction isn’t just about a paycheck; it stems from a deeper sense of purpose and accomplishment. Tradespeople often derive immense satisfaction from the tangible nature of their work. They see the direct results of their efforts, whether it’s a repaired plumbing system, a functioning electrical panel, or a newly constructed building. This sense of creating something tangible and contributing to society can be incredibly rewarding. Furthermore, many skilled trades offer a high degree of autonomy and flexibility, allowing workers to set their own schedules and manage their own projects. This independence is highly valued by many, contributing to their overall job satisfaction.

Of course, compensation also plays a role. Skilled tradespeople can earn competitive salaries, often exceeding those of many college graduates. This, combined with the low barriers to entry and minimal student debt, makes the trades an attractive option for those seeking financial stability and upward mobility. The high job satisfaction in the skilled trades is a powerful recruiting tool. By highlighting the fulfilling nature of this work, the potential for financial success, and the autonomy it offers, you can attract a new generation of talent to your company and the industry as a whole.

Earning Potential That Rivals Degrees:

Forget the outdated notion that skilled trades are low-paying jobs. In reality, many skilled trades offer earning potential that rivals or even exceeds that of many college graduates. Experienced plumbers, electricians, HVAC technicians, and other skilled professionals can command impressive salaries, often reaching six figures with specialized skills and experience.

For example, according to recent data from Salary.com, the average salary for a plumber is around $74,000 per year. However, with experience and specialization in areas like commercial plumbing or project management, salaries can easily climb well into the six-figure range.

In addition to base salaries, many tradespeople also earn bonuses, overtime pay, and other incentives, further boosting their income potential. And unlike many white-collar jobs that require a college degree and often come with student loan debt, skilled trades offer a path to financial success without the burden of hefty educational expenses.

By highlighting the lucrative earning potential in the skilled trades, you can attract ambitious individuals who are seeking a financially rewarding and fulfilling career path.

Job Security in an Automated World:

In an era of rapid technological advancement, the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has cast a shadow of uncertainty over many professions. However, the skilled trades stand as a beacon of stability amidst this changing landscape. While AI might be automating tasks in offices and factories, it’s struggling to replace the hands-on expertise, problem-solving skills,and human touch required in trades like plumbing, electrical work, and construction.

These roles are inherently grounded in the physical world, where AI’s capabilities are still limited. A robot can’t diagnose a complex electrical issue, unclog a stubborn drain, or install a new HVAC system with the precision and adaptability of a skilled tradesperson. This irreplaceable human element ensures a level of job security that many other professions simply can’t offer.

Moreover, the demand for skilled tradespeople is not only resilient but also expected to grow. As our infrastructure ages and new technologies emerge, there will be an increasing need for skilled professionals to build, maintain, and repair the world around us. This means that not only are skilled trades jobs secure in the face of AI, but they also offer a promising future with ample opportunities for career advancement.

In essence, the skilled trades are not just a safe haven from automation; they are a thriving sector with a vital role to play in the 21st century. So, if you’re seeking a career that offers both stability and the chance to make a tangible impact, the skilled trades might just be the perfect fit for you.

Career Advancement: A Ladder, Not a Ceiling

Contrary to outdated stereotypes, the skilled trades are not dead-end jobs. They offer a multitude of pathways for ambitious individuals to climb the career ladder and achieve their professional goals.

Starting as an apprentice or entry-level technician is often the first step, but it’s far from the last. With experience and dedication, you can progress to become a journeyman, master technician, foreman, supervisor, or project manager. These leadership roles not only come with increased responsibility but also significantly higher earning potential.

Moreover, many skilled tradespeople leverage their expertise to launch their own businesses. Whether it’s starting a plumbing company, an electrical contracting business, or an HVAC service provider, the entrepreneurial opportunities are vast. This path allows individuals to be their own boss, set their own hours, and build a legacy for themselves and their families.

Even within a single trade, there are opportunities for specialization. For example, an electrician could focus on residential wiring, commercial installations, or even specialize in renewable energy systems like solar panels. This allows individuals to hone their skills in a specific area and become highly sought-after experts in their field.

In essence, the skilled trades offer a career trajectory that’s limited only by your ambition and drive. Whether your goal is to lead a team, start your own business, or become a technical specialist, the trades provide the foundation for a fulfilling and upwardly mobile career path.

2024 Recruiting Strategies: Finding Your Next Superstar

Cast a Wider Net: Diversifying Your Talent Pool

To overcome the skilled trades labor shortage, it’s crucial to expand your search beyond traditional recruiting methods. By tapping into diverse talent pools, you can uncover hidden gems and build a stronger, more resilient workforce.

  • Tap into High Schools: Partner with local high schools, vocational schools, and technical colleges to introduce students to the skilled trades. Offer apprenticeships, internships, or job shadowing programs to provide hands-on experience and demonstrate the exciting career paths available. Consider participating in career fairs and workshops to showcase your company and educate students about the benefits of a trade career.
  • Engage College Students & Graduates: Don’t overlook college students and graduates. Many are burdened with student loan debt and struggling to find meaningful work in their chosen fields. Highlight the financial advantages of the trades, such as high starting salaries, low educational costs, and strong earning potential. Emphasize the diverse career paths available, from technical roles to management and ownership opportunities.
  • Empower Women in the Trades: The trades have historically been male-dominated, but women are increasingly finding fulfilling careers in these fields. Break down stereotypes by showcasing female role models, offering mentorship programs, and creating a welcoming and inclusive work environment. Promote the flexibility and work-life balance that the trades can offer, appealing to women who seek both personal and professional fulfillment.
  • Welcome Veterans: Veterans possess a unique set of skills and experiences that are highly valuable in the skilled trades. Their discipline, teamwork, and technical abilities often translate seamlessly into successful careers as electricians, plumbers, mechanics, and more. Partner with veteran organizations, participate in job fairs for veterans, and create targeted outreach programs to connect with this talented pool of candidates.

By casting a wider net and actively engaging with diverse groups, you can expand your talent pipeline, attract a new generation of skilled workers, and build a more inclusive and resilient workforce.

Showcase the Real Deal: Authenticity Attracts Top Talent

To truly stand out in the competitive skilled trades job market, it’s essential to go beyond generic job descriptions and showcase the tangible benefits and experiences your company offers.

  • Share Success Stories: Let your employees be your best advocates. Feature real testimonials and case studies that highlight the career paths, personal growth, and financial success they’ve achieved within your company. Potential candidates will be more likely to envision themselves thriving in your workplace when they see real-life examples of success.
  • Emphasize Earning Potential: Be transparent and upfront about compensation. Clearly state salary ranges,bonuses, overtime opportunities, and any other financial perks you offer. Back it up with data on average earnings in your industry and region. Remember, today’s skilled tradespeople are savvy and expect to be fairly compensated for their expertise.
  • Offer Growth Opportunities: Show potential hires that you’re invested in their long-term success. Outline the career paths available within your company, from apprenticeships to leadership roles. Provide details about training programs, mentorship opportunities, and tuition reimbursement programs. This demonstrates your commitment to employee development and creates a compelling reason for talented individuals to choose your company.
  • Build a Strong Culture: A positive company culture is a powerful magnet for top talent. Foster a workplace that values respect, collaboration, diversity, and work-life balance. Highlight your company’s social events, team-building activities, and any other initiatives that promote a sense of belonging and camaraderie. Potential candidates are not just looking for a job; they’re looking for a place where they feel valued and can thrive both personally and professionally.

Get Creative with Your Outreach: Think Beyond the Job Board

In a competitive talent market, relying solely on traditional job postings won’t cut it. To attract the best skilled tradespeople, you need to get creative with your outreach and tap into diverse channels where your ideal candidates are active.

  • Employee Referral Programs: Your current employees are often your best recruiters! They understand your company culture and the skills needed for success. Incentivize them with referral bonuses or other rewards for bringing in qualified candidates who fit your team. This not only expands your reach but also ensures a cultural fit,as referred candidates are more likely to align with your values.
  • Amplify Your Digital Presence: The digital world is your oyster when it comes to recruiting. Don’t just post jobs online; actively engage with your target audience. Utilize social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram to showcase your company culture, share employee testimonials, and post behind-the-scenes glimpses of your work. Consider running targeted ads on these platforms to reach specific demographics or geographic locations. Participate in relevant online forums and groups where tradespeople network and discuss industry trends.
  • Build Community Partnerships: Forge strong relationships with local vocational schools, trade associations, and community organizations. Offer to speak at career fairs, sponsor events, or host workshops to demonstrate your commitment to the industry and build brand awareness. These partnerships can open doors to a steady stream of qualified candidates who are eager to launch their careers in the trades.

By thinking outside the box and embracing a multi-pronged approach, you can reach a wider pool of talent and position your company as an employer of choice in the skilled trades. Remember, creativity and adaptability are key to winning the talent war in today’s competitive landscape.

Let the Experts Help: Your Shortcut to Top Talent

Navigating the complexities of the skilled trades labor market can be overwhelming. That’s where partnering with a specialized recruiting firm like Work With Your Handz becomes a game-changer. We’re not just recruiters; we’re industry insiders who understand the unique challenges you face. We’ve built an extensive network of skilled professionals across various trades, and we have the expertise to match the right talent with your specific needs.

Whether you’re seeking experienced journeymen or eager apprentices, we have the resources and know-how to find candidates who not only possess the right skills but also align with your company culture. Our proven track record of successful placements speaks for itself. By partnering with us, you can save valuable time and resources, reduce hiring costs, and focus on what you do best – growing your business. Let us handle the complexities of recruiting while you focus on building a thriving team.

Seize the Opportunity in the Skilled Trades

The skilled trades labor shortage presents a significant challenge, but it’s not a dead end. By understanding the factors contributing to this shortage, we can develop targeted strategies to attract and retain the talent we need.

The key lies in embracing a multifaceted approach. We need to change outdated perceptions, showcase the rewarding aspects of these careers, and tap into diverse talent pools that have been historically overlooked. By promoting apprenticeships, highlighting earning potential, and fostering inclusive workplaces, we can inspire a new generation to embrace the skilled trades.

At Work With Your Handz, we’re committed to helping businesses navigate this complex landscape. Our expertise,network, and proven strategies can empower you to find the skilled professionals who will not only fill your open positions but also drive your company’s growth and success.

Don’t let the labor shortage hold you back. Contact Work With Your Handz today and let’s transform this challenge into an opportunity to build a stronger, more resilient workforce.

Addressing the Skills Trades Labor Shortage: Strategies for Success


Kelly Rowlett Presgrave


Skilled Recruitment for Skilled Trades

We get to know your business, culture and needs. Work With Your Handz can help your team free up their time by providing interviews with only the most qualified candidates.