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How to Fix Today’s Construction Labor Shortage

Is It a Good Time to Go into a Skilled Trade?

The answer is – yes! If you enjoy working with your hands and learning as you go, a career in the trades may be a great choice for you. And in today’s job market, there are more opportunities than ever before. 

To help you learn the nuts and bolts about what skilled trades are in high demand and how to find the right trade career, we spoke to the experts at iHireConstruction and Explore The Trades.

What Is the Construction Skills Gap?

Simply put – it’s a shortage of skilled labor. As Baby Boomers retire, they’re leaving many positions open. Meanwhile, the construction industry is thriving as the amount of new development increases across the country—which creates even more jobs to fill. But there are limited new workers with the right skills to step in.

explore the trades logo“For every three baby boomers who are retiring from the trades, we only have one person coming back in to take their spot. So, when you look at it that way, the opportunity to enter the trades in any region of the United States is amazing – we need people to fill their spots.”

Kate Cinnamo | Explore The Trades

How Does the Gap Impact Employment Opportunities in the Trades?

According to Steve Flook, President & CEO of trade-focused job search platform, iHireConstruction, the number of jobs posted on their platform in January 2019 nearly doubled from the previous year – jumping from 68,628 to 167,377. 

ihireconstruction logo“Although the number of candidates in our construction job seeker database also grew year over year, the skills gap hasn’t gotten any smaller. While our technology is simplifying the recruiting process by matching qualified talent with employers faster, that is only half the battle.”

Steve Flook | President & CEO, iHireConstruction

How Are Employers Responding?

To fill the skills gap and keep projects on track, many construction employers offer apprenticeship programs and on-site training. This means it’s very likely you can find a job in your preferred trade  – even if you don’t have much experience.

ihireconstruction logo“To close the skills gap, the construction industry needs to focus on workforce development. My advice for employers is to collaborate with trade schools, high schools, associations, recruiters, and other organizations to educate up-and-coming workers about construction career paths and the required skillsets.”

Steve Flook | President & CEO, iHireConstruction

From best practices for recruiting to writing more compelling job ads, employers in the construction industry are working hard to better attract candidates who have the right skills. But they’re also working to help people learn those skills in the first place.

Interested in a career in construction? Let’s find the best trade for you.

How to Find the Right Trade Career

Start by looking at local job listings. Find out which positions are available in your area, the average starting salary and what the work involves. With this information in mind, you’ll be more likely to start training for a field that you can enter quickly.

What Skilled Trades Are in High Demand?

According to iHireConstruction’s Construction Industry Report, 167,377 new construction jobs were added in January 2019, with Tradesmen International leading the pack with over 2,000 job openings.

iHireConstruction's 2019 Job Openings
Title Number of Jobs
Roofer 22,808
Electrician 20,093
Plumber, Pipefitter, Pipelayer and Steamfitter 13,217
Project Manager/Construction Manager 11,914
Millwright/Mechanic/Maintenance 11,296
Other Titles: Carpenter, Welder/Fabricator, Construction/Project Engineer, HVAC Mechanic, Foreman/Supervisor, Heavy Equipment Operator, Laborer, Civil Engineer


When asked, 28 percent of job candidates said they were willing to relocate. This is one of the many perks of working in the trades, according to Kate Cinnamo, the Executive Director of Explore the Trades. “With the trades, you can live in nearly any part of the country and have a job. That doesn’t always exist with other careers.”

explore the trades logo“There are all these wonderful benefits of the trades that have largely gone on unnoticed for the last 30 years. Young people have been told that the only path to a successful career is through a traditional 4-year college route. Because of that, many technical colleges and trade schools have seen a decline in enrollment. Our organization is helping to rebuild the skilled trades.”

Kate Cinnamo  | Executive Director, Explore The Trades

The top metro areas currently hiring include: 

  • New York, NY
  • Newark, NJ
  • Jersey City, PA
  • Houston, TX
  • Sugar Land, TX
  • Baytown, TX
  • Dallas, TX
  • Fort Worth, TX
  • Arlington, TX
  • Chicago, IL
  • Naperville, IN
  • Joliet, WI
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Sandy Springs, GA
  • Marietta, GA




 

Now that you know more about the job market, let’s talk about how you can get in on the action.

How to Learn a Trade

Step 1: Decide on Your Trade of Choice

With so many career options available, it can be tricky to pick the right path. If you still haven’t decided– don’t worry. From plumbers and HVAC mechanics to welders and millwrights – we compared all of the top construction jobs in-demand. Use our guide to explore the average salary, career outlook, education requirements and necessary skills for your desired field.

Find Out Which Skilled Trade Job Is Right for You

Want to explore a specific job a step further? Take a look at our Trades 101 series, covering in-depth tips and information about skilled trades in high demand.

Construction Project Manager

Wondering what the day-to-day is like for a construction manager? Take a deeper look into the basic responsibilities and the challenges of the job.

Should You Become a Construction Manager?

Electrician

From average wages to the different types of electrical work out there, learn how to launch your career as an electrician.

How to Become an Electrician

Carpenter

If you’re curious about becoming a carpenter, take a look at what it takes to enter the industry and the benefits of this field.

Is a Career in Carpentry Right for You?

Step 2: Become an Apprentice Under an Experienced Contractor

After you decide which trade skill you want to learn, it’s time to get to work. For most positions, a high school diploma or GED is the basic requirement. Beyond that, some employers prefer to fill positions with candidates who have a bachelor’s degree or some college experience. But don’t let that scare you away: whether you want to become a carpenter or an electrician, many companies offer apprenticeship programs, providing on-the-job training alongside classroom instruction. 

For example, Lowe’s partnered with Guild Education to start a program called Track to the Trades, which helps current Lowe’s employees obtain specialized training with pre-apprenticeship. Explore the Trades, a program of Nexstar Legacy Foundation, offers education and scholarship assistance to fast-track your career in plumbing, electrical or HVAC. 

Revisit your local job listings and reach out to those companies. Sell yourself as a hard worker, willing to show up on time and learn on the go. A good attitude and strong ambition can take you far in the trades.

explore the trades logo“Connect with instructors at trade schools in your community. Many of the state governments around the country also have special programming set up for apprenticeships to help you learn about the education that exists within them.”

Kate Cinnamo | Explore The Trades

Find Out Where to Get a Construction Education

Ready to Fill the Skilled Trades Gap? 

With so many different types of trade jobs available, this career path offers a lot of flexibility paired with on-the-job training. And with today’s shortage of skilled workers – you’re bound to find a job fast. We hope these resources help you start a career you can be proud of. 

Looking for more industry news? Check out the Trades and Construction section of our blog for tips and resources.