The expectations of the American youth have changed much since the days when industry thrived in the United States. Whether it was for better or for worse is debatable, but as the country transitioned from manufacturing to service based industries, the generations of people were further divided by changing labor expectations. The changes have led many to believe that the United States is experiencing a labor shortage, an insufficient amount of qualified workers, in the market of skilled trades. Because of this, many consumers are finding it much more difficult to find contractors that aren’t being replaced fast enough to accomodate for the wave of retiring baby boomers.
The decline in demand for such jobs is the change in expectations in career development that began in the 1970’s and 80’s. 40 years ago, the United States was a powerhouse economy that relied heavily on manufacturing. Since that period, economic decision making by manufacturers to produce overseas to lower the cost of production, as well as America’s fledgling effort to combat air pollution in the 1970’s, have sent those jobs out of country, taken by countries such as China that own a significantly lower minimum wage than the US, and have made less of an effort to mitigate air pollution from factories. Because of this, America has lost “some 7 million manufacturing jobs”, according to Forbes. While the same source argues that the US has “added some 53 million jobs in services”, the impact of the changes has been left on following generations. Millennials and Generation Z have been persistently advised that the best option towards finding reliable employment is through a four-year Bachelor’s Degree. These factors have all contributed to the steadily growing “skills gap” as the older generations tire from their laborious careers.
What makes this gap in demand for skilled trades surprising is the potential such a career provides for a lucrative career. According to an article by NPR, Pacific Northwest Ironworkers based in Seattle provides workers and opportunity to earn “$28.36 an hour, or more than $50,000 a year”, a wage that is commonplace in many similar careers. Besides this, the shallow belief that the only way to “make it” in life is via a traditional college continues, even with increasing average debt. Some may assume the youth are too afraid the get their hands dirty; others may argue ignorance and a lack of promoting the field are to blame. Regardless, this trend doesn’t appear to be improving; the outlook on the youth’s demand in skilled trades hasn’t shifted at all, and the proportion of skilled trade workers older than 45 in 2012 was 53 percent, according to EMSI, which is a significantly high proportion. With demand as low as it is currently among the younger generation, in 20 years the majority of current employees in the field will be retired, putting a strain on industries that many of American workers in service based industries take for granted. Somehow, new parents and school systems need to promote the promise that becoming a machinist, electrician, welder, or any similar career can provide and prevent more Americans from college debt and looming unemployment straight out of college. The opportunity is there if the youth are willing to put in the effort.
Works CitedWright, Joshua. “America's Skilled Trades Dilemma: Shortages Loom As Most-In-Demand Group Of Workers Ages.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 23 May 2014, www.forbes.com/sites/emsi/2013/03/07/americas-skilled-trades-dilemma-shortages-loom-as-most-in-demand-group-of-workers-ages/#2b0f15bd6397
Gross, Ashley, and Jon Marcus. “High-Paying Trade Jobs Sit Empty, While High School Grads Line Up For University.” NPR, NPR, 25 Apr. 2018, www.npr.org/sections/ed/2018/04/25/605092520/high-paying-trade-jobs-sit-empty-while-high-school-grads-line-up-for-university.
Krupnick, Matt. “After Decades of Pushing Bachelor's Degrees, U.S. Needs More Tradespeople.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 29 Aug. 2017, www.pbs.org/newshour/education/decades-pushing-bachelors-degrees-u-s-needs-tradespeople.
Worstall, Tim. “The U.S. Lost 7 Million Manufacturing Jobs--And Added 33 Million Higher-Paying Service Jobs.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 19 Oct. 2016, www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2016/10/19/the-us-lost-7-million-manufacturing-jobs-and-added-33-million-higher-paying-service-jobs/#66e2a7b04a20.