According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), May 2018, the unemployment rate dropped to 3.8 percent. While we continue to see a downward trend for the unemployment rate in the U.S., we still lack in skilled workers. Meaning, even though more people are finding work since the Great Recession, there is a lack of interest in the labor industry.
This is more than likely a result of two trends throughout the U.S. One is the large portion of skilled workers who are now approaching the age of retirement. Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) account for roughly 25% of our labor force, all within a few years of retirement. Additionally, high school graduates are uniformly being driven to 4-year universities as opposed to skilled-trade jobs. These two trends are now creating, what we call, a Skills Gap.
In the latest episode of the Nocti Podcast, we dive into the notion of the Skills Gap and how it has the power to affect people across the nation.
What Is the Skills Gap?
The Skills Gap is the difference between the skills employers need workers to have and the skills workers actually possess. The skills gap presents unique challenges when it comes to industries that require skilled workers to fill open positions.
Skills Gap = Amount of Skilled Workers – The Demand for Skilled Workers
As the aging workforce starts to retire in droves, the skills gap will continue to widen, leading to a higher number of open positions with no qualified workers to fill them.
With our economy now in full throttle, manufacturing and construction companies are experiencing difficulties keeping up with the demand. As a result, tradespeople are working overtime and on weekends to make up for the lack of personnel. To combat this trend, young skill-workers are seeing better incentives to join the labor force. Labor companies are using higher starting salaries and better benefits to drive interest in the labor force, but interest is not high enough yet. We still see far too many high school grads pass on skilled-work, and opt for a four-year degree. The problem is that the return on investment for a bachelors degree is not as high as it once was. Yet, the cost to attend universities continuously goes up every year. It’s an equation that leaves families who send their children to college immediately after high school with higher costs, and even more debt.
Defeating the skills gap starts with early education. In the U.S. today, there’s a huge push to send kids to college. With most educational program’s focus being on college, there is no real desire for a career in skilled trades. Parents and students don’t see trade schools as a viable option due to outdated misconceptions. However, today’s youths are more familiar with electronics, machinery, and computer programs than any prior generation. All of which makes them prime candidates to become a part of the labor force. More importantly, with such a high demand for skilled words, recent graduates have an excellent opportunity to find rewarding careers right out of high school–witout accumulating student debt.
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To aid the growth and interest for careers in skilled-trade, educators can introduce trade jobs, along with other career options, in late middle school. Rather than introducing career planning at the end of high school, where students are already convinced that a 4-year degree is necessary to be successful. By teaching children how our country’s infrastructure works, we can show how skilled workers maintain this framework. Additionally, we reintroduce a much-needed conversation about the manufacturing industry, teaching kids that trade jobs are well-paying, practical options.
For more information about the skills gap, download episode one of the Nocti Podcast.