In today s labor market, recruiting and retaining skilled workers is still a challenge in the industrial sect. In the case of Scott MacKenzie who is the President of LEAF Services, a company that provides cost-effective industrial labor solutions, clients come to him to look for manpower who are safe, focused, and with industrial background. The problem? Client s demand for labor is urgent, and some may even request I need people tomorrow”.

With the growing demand for skilled labor, companies such as LEAF Services are constantly finding ways on how to fill the gap. Part of this is to better understand the trend that exists between people and recruitment, and how to leverage this insight to make sure that they provide not only the right manpower solution but also to ensure longevity of skilled workers endorsed to their prospective companies.

According to Scott, recruitment, sourcing, and training is a challenging environment because you as a company that provides manpower has to “pocket” some costs to retain or pool in and train the candidates before they are endorsed to their prospective employers. Some of them [workers] just walk off if the job proved to be difficult than they anticipated. In general, there is also churn in skilled trade.

The skills gap in today s industrial marketplace is measurable and real. With only one skilled tradesman entering the workforce for every five who retire, the demand for skilled labor in the U.S. has reached a critical mass. In fact, according to Forbes, skilled trade workers are a disproportionately older population, and will only continue to get older, creating increased opportunities for young workers to fill their shoes.

A survey report conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) suggest that, despite the overall optimistic outlook for the increasing demand for all types of construction services, 82 percent of firms expect it will either become harder, or remain difficult to recruit and hire qualified workers in 2018, up from 76 percent at the beginning of 2017. In addition, 78 percent of firms report they are currently having a hard time finding qualified workers to hire, up from 73 percent at the start of last year.

Presently, construction firms across the country are finding it harder and harder to hire skilled workers to match the growing demand for construction. Contractors are having to turn down work because they don t have the skilled labor to keep up with their current backlogs. Other firms are opting to recruit workers with less experience than they would prefer. These workers lack the experience needed to operate as safely as necessary on job sites. As a result, firms are worried about workplace safety. “There are a lot of applicants for construction programs that simply lack any of the skills firms would want in a new worker,” said Brian Turmail, AGC’s senior executive director of public affairs. “These include not knowing how to operate safely on a construction site, how to use their personal protective equipment, how to operate most tools safely and how to operate heavy equipment. Many also lack the technology skills needed to interact with software like building information modeling commonly found on many jobsites.”

What caused this shortage in the first place? For one, when US economy was showing a steady recovery after the Great Recession, the demand for skilled labor in the construction industry has significantly increased, resulting to labor shortage. Another reason is that there hasn t been much of a push from academe to get students into the trades. Instead, the educational system were constantly pushing the students, especially the millennials, to pursue a career in the business, engineering, or IT, perhaps due to the booming industries of the digital age in the recent years. Also, there is this perception that to be professional or successful is to work in an office behind a computer. Eventually, some educational institution has to get over its reverence for the bachelor’s degree and consider recommending career path to tradesmanship to students as an alternative option.

There s nothing wrong in getting a 4-year degree after graduating from high school. In fact, it becomes an automatic choice for the majority of people for obvious reason higher income. For starters, salaries for trade school graduates aren t that much of a drop-off compared to a four-year degree. In the 2017 report published by National Center for Educational Statistics, technical and trade school jobs have a median annual salary of $36,900, though this figure varies heavily based on the particular industry and the experience level of the worker, while that with Bachelor s degree is $50,000, amounting to an annual difference of $13,100. This difference may not paint the whole picture. However, if you do cost-benefit analysis and factor in the relatively lower costs associated with going to trade school, earlier entry to workforce and get a job, and better job security (due to less saturation, growing domestic demand for high-precision skills, and that trade jobs are not outsourceable or exportable), skilled technicians are still in a much better position long term. There s so much ample opportunities in the industrial world; it’s dynamic, you can pivot quickly.

Another contributing factors was the preconceived stereotypes surrounding construction workers, which perceived by many as doing the dirty work and doesn’t carry much prestige as compared to other occupations. Not long ago, they were considered low-wage workers whose educational background is minimal and whose skills are not that indispensable. In fact, the opposite is true. Most of them are intelligent people who just love and prefer hands-on jobs. Some are even bilingual. Structural welders, for example, are surgeon in the industrial space, and there should be a sense of pride to that. Also, and most importantly, we should remove this stigma associated with contract labor. In the past, contract laborers are viewed as second class or third class citizens, with some treated poorly, even abuse, just because of the mentality that they are not worth much. They deserve proper dignity and treatment.

So, how then do we fill this gap in the industrial labor market? Currently, there are already some initiatives going on to attract people to consider careers in the skilled trades and inform the next generation of workers, especially the millennials, about career opportunities and training programs available to them. Some companies establishes linkages to schools and universities to provide educational assistance and training to students so they can apprentice and be absorbed by the company. Some companies even raise the hourly rate for trade jobs to attract and/or retain skilled workers. From the academe side, school counselors have a huge role to play in guiding students to choose the right degree that will eventually make them winners. From the government side, there are proposed initiatives such as Go Build program with the mission of recruiting and educating new skilled workers in construction trades. Lastly, organizations such as Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) has been aggressively lobbying Congress to support career and skilled trades training.


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