Skilled Labor is Still in Short Supply

Skilled labor shortages persist in pockets across the U.S., impacting manufacturing, construction, and a wide range of companies, from hospitals and health systems to transportation and technology. Experts project that in New Jersey, the labor gap will hold steady at 250,000 unfilled positions through 2030 or, in a worst-case scenario, rise to 400,000. This article considers some of the challenges companies face in attracting skilled labor.


Factors that Stymie the Skilled Labor Pool

Nationally, some industry labor shortage pains have finally subsided post-pandemic. Yet, skilled labor remains tight by historical standards. What’s causing skilled labor to stymie is a complex combination of workers who’ve moved on to other industries, baby boomers retiring, and hiring processes that don’t penetrate a “hidden market.” In addition, many myths and misconceptions overshadow the skilled labor career path.


Myths that Persist

Here are some of the most common myths about skilled trade jobs:

  1.    Skilled trades aren’t for intelligent people: This is a common misconception that skilled trade jobs are all brawn and no brain. However, skills-based jobs can require sophisticated diagnostic equipment, advanced mathematics, and mastery of specific technologies.
  2.    You won’t earn a decent living: This is another myth that is far from the truth. Many entry-level jobs in the skilled trades pay upwards of $20 an hour.
  3.    Skilled trades are seasonal or contractual and don’t offer consistent pay: While there is always seasonal work for skilled labor, categorically, this myth is false. Construction projects are generally year-round, and steady jobs are available for skilled trades.
  4.    Skilled trades are for men: This myth has been debunked. Women are increasingly entering the skilled trades and are making significant contributions to the industry.
  5.    You need a four-year degree to enter most skilled trades: Education is a yes, but a four-year degree is not necessarily required. Fifty-three percent of the U.S. labor market are “middle-skills” jobs, requiring more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree. Whether you do it through trade school, community college, on-the-job training, or some combination, learning is essential, but a degree can be optional.
  6.    Skilled trades are dead-end jobs: This myth is far from the truth. Skilled trade jobs offer many benefits, including job security, opportunities for advancement, and the ability to work with your hands and see the results of your work.


How to Write a New Chapter for Skilled Labor 

  1.    Penetrating the hidden market: Employers who rely on posting on a few job boards are likely missing “hidden workers,” a market of skilled individuals that McKinsey estimates at between 330,00 and 740,000 in New Jersey alone. These are underemployed workers, often blocked by automated screening requirements with filters including degree requirements or years of experience. Working with a staffing partner experienced in finding skilled trade workers can help you recruit from a broader talent pool and reach a more diverse population.
  2.    Provide skills training. As manufacturers adopt greater automation in response to the lack of skilled workers, those left on the job site will need even more specialized skill sets. Gen Z is more likely to consider trade school and alternate training due to the rising costs of getting a four-year degree. Offering a career path, skills training, and professional development may be a way to win over the next generation.
  3.    Be sure your compensation is competitive. Look for a staffing partner who can help you assess the industry and the local market. Salary and benefits must align with your competitors.
  4.    Consider internships and “returnships.” Partnering with local schools can bring attention to career options for students who otherwise might not have skilled trades on their radar. There’s traction in providing internships followed by a program of support for interns who return and become employees. Support including training and development, mentoring, and coaching can ease new workers’ entry into the workforce and help them gain a footing within your organization.
  5. Remember employee referrals. The top way people find new jobs is by referral. Some companies offer employee referral bonuses between $1000-$5000, while others provide perks like vacation days and gift cards to incentivize employees. LinkedIn’s Ultimate List of Hiring Statistics touts that employers can 10x their talent pool by recruiting through their employees’ network.


A Comprehensive Approach

By bringing together better recruiting methods that include tapping hidden communities, collaborating with educational institutions, and leveraging referrals from within, companies can open doors to valuable, skilled talent. With fair compensation and opportunities to learn and develop, businesses can improve retention of skilled labor and grow talent from within. We’d love to hear about the myths you’d like to bust and how we can collectively write a new chapter for skilled labor.


About Equiliem

Equiliem (www.equiliem.com) believes in empowering success. It’s our job to cultivate relationships that connect people and employers in a way that is inclusive, intelligent, and allows both to thrive. 

Across the U.S., leading companies in healthcare, government, light industrial manufacturing, professional services, and energy rely on us for their workforce solutions. Our recruiting and HR services include contract and direct hire staffing, Payrolling/EOR, Independent Contractor Compliance, and Managed Services.

Since 1995, we’ve helped shape our industry. Today, we continue to research, ask questions, and continuously enhance the candidate journey and client experience.