The real “Trades” deficit. How you can help get the trades back
By Eric G
I had a caller this weekend on my radio show that was talking about hiring a contractor to do his deck this fall. He was under the assumption that he could hire a contractor late in the season and get them going before the rains hit here in Portland. He had no idea that most of the people out there that build decks are booked into late spring of 2019. We just don’t have enough contractors to do the work. Most people don’t realize that we are expected each year to see double digit increases in projects costs due to higher labor costs and labor shortages in the Construction Trades. That means that kitchen remodel, or bath remodel you are planning next year might cost an additional 10% due to the lack of people that could do your project? How is this happening? Let’s explore that for a moment.
In the early 1990’s wood shop, welding, and auto shop started to disappear from our schools. There are varied excuses that were given by the school districts, but some would say it was budget cuts, some had intentions to send those kids to what I call the big business of a College Education, or others wanted those classrooms for other uses. Some were even turned into computer labs. The result? It has left hundreds of thousands of kids without the training or education to get into the trades. Now we have a huge problem.
Some will tell you that we have a lot of kids in training now. However, it is expected to have a 60% deficit in 2022 of people entering the trades beyond the people currently in training. That means we are nowhere close to even catching up. We are WAY behind.
What can we do now? First, we need to expand the programs that we have in the schools. We must work to bring back those wood shop classes, the welding classes, and auto shop. All those programs that train our kids need a quick boost to start with. Some school districts have planned ahead, still have those classes, and have not abandoned the trades. We need to continue to support them and get those classes the latest in technology so that those kids can learn the latest in tools and equipment. I fully realize it will take years to put back programs that have been abandoned by schools as there are some serious budget issues with replacing equipment and space. I think if the school districts started working with the Unions, Manufacturers, local business, and contractors out there, they could do it quickly with funds that don’t come out of the school budget.
There is no doubt that we are really about a decade late resolving these issues as we have been losing a generation of skilled trades for over a decade without the people to replace them. It really comes down to you asking your local school district what they are doing to resolve this problem in their schools and putting the appropriate pressure on them to understand we are at the point of an emergency that will affect housing and construction nationwide. This grassroots effort starts with you!
There are great local groups that are starting young, such as Girls Build. They are working getting young girls into loving to learn about the skills needed to get into a career in the trades. Now as a community we must have the classes beyond this group to walk them the rest of the way through school. Right now, in many places those classes don’t exist. You can support Girls Build here.
Your action plans? You can start by writing the local high school principal or write your school board and ask about how they are working to fix this problem. The more you are involved with the decision makers and show up to school board meetings the more you can do to change the situation. It won’t be quick, and it won’t be easy. Every step you take will help the entire situation. We now have to fix 20 years of neglect of an important and needed part of our society. That has to start now so please start with social media and help get this conversation started. We have a long road ahead.