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What If I Told You…

What if I told you that despite what you might have heard in the recent election, we have millions of jobs that are going unfilled. And what if I told you that these jobs were golden tickets to the middle class, paying $50-60-70K/yr and didn't require saying the following: "would you like fries with that"...or..."paper or plastic". And what if I told you that you didn't have to spend your life paying back student loans to get these jobs. Yes - I live in California where we recently passed a Cannabis law, but no I'm not partaking.

Hasta La Vista – Baby Boomers

The Baby Boomers – those born roughly between 1946-1964 – are now reaching retirement age. This demographic makes up 20% of the US population but an even higher percentage of the workforce (~ 45%). Nearly 50M US workers could be retiring in the next 10 years. As they retire, they are placing vexing challenges on the jobs landscape. There are more job openings available today than at anytime since the US Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking vacancies in 2000. We are losing experienced workers in big chunks, just as they flooded the labor market en masse in the 1950s and 1960s. Boeing, for example, now has 35% of their 29,645 machinists 55 years or older, placing future aircraft production at risk. Workers who have accumulated a lifetime of skills and expertise are now leaving in large numbers. This will have major repercussions for companies’ ability to meet customer demand in the future; for example, a full 82% of manufacturing CEOs think they will be in jeopardy of meeting customer demand due to this skills gap.

"Eighty percent of manufacturing executives reported they are willing to pay more than the market rates in workforce areas reeling under talent crisis. Still six out of 10 positions remain unfilled due to the talent shortage. This clearly indicates there are not a sufficient number of workers in manufacturing to fill these positions"

Future Jobs and Skills Gap

How large is the middle skills workforce today? Estimates vary from 30M - 65M workers in jobs ranging from manufacturing to retail sales to health care to IT. Today, it's estimated that 2M jobs go unfilled yearly and that the majority of them (1.5M) require more than a high school diploma but less than a 4 year college degree. Millions of skilled workers will be needed in the future in part to replace the retirees and will require more than a high school degree (Source: Georgetown Univ. Center on Education and the Workforce). Many industries are already experiencing severe skilled worker shortages or will in the near future, especially the skilled trades.

  • Manufacturing: 2M unfilled jobs in coming years due to skills gap (Source: Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute)

  • Construction: 8 of 10 builders struggle to hire workers; 6 of 10 have had to raise prices due to labor shortages

  • Logistics: the American Transportation Research Institute estimates there are 30,000 - 35,000 trucker jobs that could be filled tomorrow if workers would take these jobs--a shortage that could rise to 240,000 by 2022.

  • Utilities and Aerospace: 50-60% of existing workforce expected to retire by 2020

"We often hear predictions that the US will face a shortage of computer scientists and engineers in the decade ahead, but rarely do we hear that the nation will also face a shortage of nutritionists, welders and nurses’ aides." (Jeff Selingo, "There Is Life After College")

Contrary to popular belief, we do not have a shortage of good paying, skills-based jobs in the US. We have a shortage of skills and people to fill them!

Mind the Gap

So why the gap?

Our high schools have by and large given up on developing interest and educating students on the skilled trades. We now have multiple generations of students who have never been exposed to these alternate career paths whom instead have been pushed de facto into a 4 year college track. And we’ve bribed them to merge onto the Debt Superhighway by making $1.3 Trillion available in easy to access college loans. As much as 71% of graduates from 4-year colleges are exiting with debt. Sadly, the demand for liberal arts college grads – the most popular degree category - has dropped dramatically. Only 15% of college grads major in STEM – a percentage that has roughly remained constant for 2 decades. Every day there’s an article in the press about how these college graduates aren’t prepared for jobs in the ‘real world’, and end up either unemployed or underemployed (visit your local Starbucks!).

As Mike Rowe, of Dirty Jobs fame and a leading spokesperson for the skilled trades and founder of the mikeroweWORKS foundation (a source of scholarships for skilled trade education), says – it’s a myth that skilled trades don’t lead to good salaries. Starting salaries in the skilled trades are on average $48K – making it higher than Education, Psychology, History and Business degrees. That’s a golden ticket to a good middle class lifestyle.

Yet how many high school guidance counselors today are telling a significant number of their students – DON’T go to a 4 year college and accumulate the considerable student debt you’ll struggle to pay off. INSTEAD – learn a skilled trade at a local community college or career/technical training center where you’ll get out in 2 years or less, have no debt, and be deluged with multiple job offers in a skilled field providing a comfortable living? Sadly…not many, which must change.

A Change Is Gonna Come

So what can we do about this? How can we get more young people directed into skilled trades. How can we teach them to do more with their hands than just send texts and play video games? How can we replace the millions of skilled baby boomers retiring in the coming years?

There are answers out there. And they're gonna the next blog posts.

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