For decades, the prevailing wisdom in the United States was that to get a good, high-paying career, it was necessary to get a college degree. But there is a large number of well-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree, although they may require more than just a high school diploma.
More Educated Workforce Creates Skill Shortages
“While a shortage of workers is pushing wages higher in the skilled trades, the financial return from a bachelor’s degree is softening, even as the price—and the average debt into which it plunges students—keeps going up,” according to NPR’s All Things Considered. “But high school graduates have been so effectively encouraged to get a bachelor’s that high-paid jobs requiring shorter and less expensive training are going unfilled.”
Case in point: the construction industry.
Impact on the Construction Industry
According to a recent survey from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and Autodesk, 80% of construction firms report they are having a hard time filling hourly craft positions, which represent the bulk of the construction workforce.
The AGC survey says these craft worker shortages “are severe in all four regions of the country, with 81 percent of contractors in the West and South reporting a hard time filling hourly craft positions, almost identical to the 80 percent rate in the Midwest and 77 percent rate in the Northeast.”
Not surprisingly, the shortage of labor comes as demand for construction continues to rise, meaning that there are more and more jobs available.
According to the press release, which was based in part on an interview with AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson, these increasingly tight labor market conditions “are prompting firms to change the way they operate, recruit and compensate workers…Sixty-two percent of construction firms report increasing base pay rates for craft workers because of the difficulty in filling positions. Twenty-four percent have improved employee benefits for craft workers and 25 percent report they are providing incentives and bonuses to attract workers.”
While we often talk about how high-tech industries in the IT field are showing growing job openings and high labor demand, it’s also the case that many highly skilled trade industries are also finding shortages of skilled labor.
Not all of these jobs require that bachelor’s degree that once seemed essential to high-wage employment. It’s time to begin recognizing the value of the trades and ensuring career paths for students with interest and aptitude in these areas.