Skilled trade workers—plumbers, electricians, carpenters, construction workers, building maintenance technicians, and more—are essential to the functioning of any society and economy. In recent years, though, there has been a shortage of skilled trade workers in the United States, which has had significant negative impacts on businesses and consumers. Here are some of the reasons for the shortage, the problems it causes, and several good reasons to consider a career in one of many rewarding skilled trades.

Causes of the Skilled Trade Labor Shortage

There are at least 4 main reasons for the current shortage of skilled trade workers:

  • Stigma around skilled trades. Over the past several decades, there has been a strong social tendency to view skilled trade jobs as less desirable career options. For many years, people considered these livelihoods to be low-paying, dirty, and dangerous work that only men could do. “White-collar” jobs (such as those in tech, finance, and law) were touted as the definitive path to a successful career. Beyond its outright inaccuracy, this flawed perception has long discouraged young people from becoming trade workers.
  • Lack of vocational education. As a result of this stigma, there has been strong pressure on young people to attend 4-year colleges for the purpose of entering white-collar fields rather than vocational or trade schools. This in turn has led to a general decline in vocational education programs. Consequently, fewer young people are being presented with the option to join skilled trade careers and they aren’t receiving the training they need to do so.
  • An aging workforce. Meanwhile, many of the current Baby Boomer and older Generation X members of the trade labor workforce are at or nearing retirement age. For example, about 7,000 electricians enter the field each year, but about 10,000 more retire, leaving a significant amount of unfilled jobs and unmet demand. In order to achieve equilibrium, more young workers must enter the workforce in these industries.
  • Growth in energy and construction industries. Energy sectors—both the fossil fuel and clean or renewable varieties—are growing rapidly, driven in part by the need to diversify resources in the inflamed geopolitical and environmental climate. Construction fields are booming as well. All of this means that jobs are being created faster than businesses can fill them, particularly given the low number of trade school graduates.

Problems Caused by the Shortage

All of the above factors have contributed to the trade labor shortage, which in turn has caused the following problems in recent years:

  • Businesses struggle to complete major industrial projects. The shortage of skilled trade workers makes it difficult for businesses to find the workers they need to complete projects and meet customer demand. This can lead to delays, increased costs, and lost business.
  • Individual consumers struggle to complete home projects. The labor shortage also makes it difficult for consumers to find tradespeople to complete home repairs and renovations in a timely manner. This can lead to increased costs and protracted inconvenience.
  • Economic instability. The lack of skilled trade workers also negatively impacts the economy, as businesses struggle to meet demand and consumers face higher costs. The high demand for workers inflates pay rates, which become a contributing factor in the rising cost of goods and services as businesses pass costs on to consumers.

Benefits of Getting Trade Skills Training

There are plenty of benefits to pursuing a career in a skilled trade, especially if you like to work with your hands and see physical projects spring to life. These include:

  • Less time spent in school. Rather than spending 4 (or more) years of your life in college, you can jumpstart your career after 2 or fewer years of trade school in many fields.
  • Less student loan debt. Trade schools are affordable, and their relatively short duration means you won’t rack up nearly as much student loan debt as you easily can at a 4-year college or university.
  • Job security. There are currently many skilled trade jobs in demand, and there is a steady need for workers with related skills. This translates to job security and increased opportunities for career advancement.
  • Good pay. Skilled trades often offer competitive pay and benefits, and many provide opportunities for overtime and bonuses.
  • Independence and autonomy. Skilled trade workers often have the freedom to work independently, manage their own schedules, and take on leadership roles.
  • Sense of accomplishment. Skilled trade workers get the satisfaction of seeing the tangible results of their work and knowing that they are making a valuable contribution to society. You’ll also be able to take pride in the fact that you’re bringing much-needed balance to the economy!


Get FREE Hands-On Career Training With JobTrain

You can get the training you need to qualify for many rewarding careers in skilled trades. If you live near Silicon Valley in northern California, you can visit one of JobTrain’s four affiliated centers to get free hands-on career training in the areas of construction, health care, information technology and culinary arts.

JobTrain is an accredited educational and training institution that transforms lives and communities in Silicon Valley. We help the Valley’s most in need reclaim their lives from poverty and unemployment by preparing them for successful, sustainable careers in high-demand and emerging fields. Check out our career training pathways to get started on the path to a high-quality job in a field that excites you.