The labor market ebbs and flows, but one trend we are seeing consistently is a shortage of workers in the skilled trades. Referring to it as a “trend” may be disingenuous; in fact, it has become a way of life - a new normal, if you will - for employers across construction, manufacturing, and residential services industries. They are struggling to fill their skilled labor staffing needs.
But what does this mean for you?
It can mean opportunity. If you need a job that will tick all your boxes, a career in the skilled trades does it by offering:
- High pay
- Exceptional work/life balance
- On the job training, internships, and apprenticeships
- Career training, development, and advancement opportunities
- A faster transition from school to job - with far less (or no) debt
- An excellent way to get out of your current dead-end, low-paying job and start paying off those student loans
The last bullet is a bit facetious - but that does not mean it’s inaccurate. Many people who paid for four-year college degrees are now going back to trade school so they can get set on a more advantageous career path.
Whether you are fresh out of high school (or even still there) or you are searching for a more fulfilling, and better paying, job, the trades deliver an abundance of opportunities. What are the best trades to study and train in, which are most in-demand in terms of skilled staffing, and how do you launch your career?
A Career In The Skilled Trades: A Strong Return for Your Investment
Skilled laborers possess highly specialized expertise and training; they acquire experience in trades programs at high schools (if they are lucky), technical schools, apprenticeships, on the job, and a combination of these.
These careers typically do not require a four-year degree. And this is worth taking a minute on. The average cost of a trade school education is about $33,000. This is on par or less than the cost of one year at a private college. Already, you are looking at a quarter of the cost. Additionally, trade school students are also eligible for financial aid if their programs run longer than 15 weeks.
Graduates of four-year programs carry $31,000+ in debt, which takes 10-30 years to clear. But there is another expense to consider: the “opportunity cost.” This is money they could have been making in the workforce. This equals about $120,000. Trade school grads, on the other hand, advance through their programs in two years or less (and, as mentioned, can take advantage of loans, grants, and other forms of aid); they can then start earning money.
In other words, skilled laborers hit the ground running, and they are bringing in paychecks years before their traditional college counterparts. There are ample positions for them to explore, and as demand is high, they can make a decision that works for them instead of being forced to take a job that doesn’t appeal - or pay.
High Demand - High Pay
Skilled trades cover a range of specialties, such as:
- Service Techs
- HVAC Techs
- Heavy Equipment Operators
There are millions of unfilled trade jobs in the US. When you are interested in the trades, you have a leg up on earning potential, job security, career advancement, and more.
In particular, the commercial construction and manufacturing sectors are ripe for the picking. Let’s look at each in turn:
When you work in the commercial construction field, you will be involved in creating offices, retail centers, medical facilities, manufacturing plants, and more. This sector has seen 4.6% growth in the last five years and that is projected to continue. In demand are:
- Commercial Electricians
- Commercial carpenters
- Heavy Equipment Operators
- Heavy Equipment Mechanics
In the next six to seven years, we are going to need 2.4 million skilled tradespeople to fill important roles in manufacturing. This critical sector is vital to the economy - and it can be an opportunistic career path for:
- Boiler Specialists
- Machine Operators
- Machine, Generator, and Facilities Operators
These jobs are not going away, and the skill and critical thinking involved ensures that they cannot be automated. Real people with real drive, ingenuity, and expertise are in exceedingly high demand.
High Paying Trade Jobs
“How much can I really make in the trades?” This is a common question, and it is one that requires some myth-busting. There is a persistent misconception that skilled labor jobs don’t pay that well - or if they do, they are brutal and don’t offer advancement opportunities. Well, let’s deal with the first part: the pay.
Skilled labor positions can be lucrative, and as you grow your experience, you grow your pay. Among the highest-paid trades jobs:
- Boilermakers. This can be physically intensive, as these professionals are responsible for assembling, installing, maintaining, and repairing containers, vats, and vessels that hold gases and liquids. It requires precision - and it pays. Average earnings are about $30/hour ($63,000/year).
- Electricians. Most electricians start at trade school and enter into apprenticeships. They wire and maintain the electrical systems and components in buildings. You can expect excellent job growth (8%) and payment of $27/hour ($56,000/year).
- Plumbers. Both commercial and residential plumbers install, maintain, and repair pipe networks. They are in high demand and can expect to earn $26.52/hour ($55,000/year).
- Machinery Mechanic. These specialized mechanics repair and maintain industrial equipment. They work in manufacturing settings and need knowledge in the areas of machines, components, hydraulics, and robotics. Job growth is phenomenal at 13%, and pay is $25.41/hour ($53,000//year).
- Construction Equipment Operator. Every heavy-duty construction project (e.g. roads, buildings, etc.) requires people to handle machinery. These tradespeople can learn on the job without the need for technical schooling. This makes the $23/hour ($48,000/year) pay a very lucrative option.
How Can You Start Your Career In the Trades?
It depends. What field is right for you? Where do your interests lie? Each trade has a specific set of skills and requirements, so be sure to look into this. In general, though, a path to the trades often involves:
- A high school diploma (or GED). Most skilled labor staffing teams will look for this at a minimum.
- Trade/technical education. Many trades require you to attend classes at or have a degree from, a technical school or community college.
- Practical training experience. You will likely experience an apprenticeship, internship, or on-the-job training. Be aware that many employers will offer to train the right people, so this can be a terrific avenue to further your career.
- Diplomas and certifications. To start, some trades do require a minimal level of education (e.g. a certification in that particular field). Others, though, will begin you at entry-level and advance you through your education while you are at work.
Finding a Skilled Labor Job
Skilled labor staffing continues to be a challenge for employers - but their struggle means your opportunity. Any of the trades we have mentioned, specifically commercial construction and manufacturing, will offer ample positions for your choosing, as well as great pay, benefits, and advancement potential.
You will likely need a high school diploma or equivalency, technical/trade school education, or an apprenticeship to break into the field. Keep in mind, though, that it is your work ethic and drive to excel in your craft that make you highly employable.
Are you ready for a rewarding career in the trades? Labor for Hire specializes in skilled labor staffing - or placing the right people in the right jobs. We offer the chance to hone your skills, connect with employers, gain critical on-the-job skills, and find your passion. Contact our team today.