The Skilled Labor Shortage 2018


Today college is viewed as the only path to success. However, the four year degree is often overrated and unnecessary for career success. Those working in the skilled trades enjoy good salaries without needing a college degree. And there is greater need than ever, with a shortage of talent being reported in the skilled trades. We spoke to an executive from the National Kitchen and Bath Association about the skilled trades shortage and how to get trained in these professions.

Which skilled trades are most in demand?

Skilled-trade jobs continue to be the most difficult to fill in the United States. American builders, for instance, report shortages among all positions — carpenters, masons, concrete workers, roofers, plumbers, painters, electricians, etc.

According to NKBA members responding to the Association’s 2018 Workforce Development Study, NKBA members report that the most difficult skilled-trades positions to fill or find subcontractors for in the kitchen and bath industry are installers (58%), carpenters (53%), electricians (33%) and plumbers/HVAC contractors (32%).

How can one become trained for these professions?

There are a number of ways that young adults can receive the training needed to pursue a career in the construction trades.

In response to the growing need for skilled tradespeople, an increasing number of high schools now offer traditional vocational programs or pathway programs aimed at providing their students with the skills and hand-on training they need for the jobs available today and those of the future.

Traditional trade schools provide training for classic disciplines — construction, plumbing, electrical work, etc. — and options for taking certification and licensing tests. Additionally, some colleges now offer degrees or certifications in construction management.

Trade unions are also a good place to inquire about training for their particular specialty, as well as look for internships and apprenticeships.

Both small and large companies in the U.S. construction industry recognize the value of offering training and/or apprenticeship and intern programs. These programs usually provide training in the specific areas these companies are looking to fill and often lead to permanent positions.

The National Kitchen & Bath Association, in concert with NAHB, NARI, the National Housing Endowment and Scranton Gillette Communications, have banned together to create and support the Skilled Labor Fund. This industry-wide effort raises funds to address the shortage of skilled labor entering the residential construction market and to bring labor training to local markets. The Skilled Labor Fund provides scholarships and pathways for individuals exploring careers in the skilled trades.

In fall 2018, NKBA launched its Jobs portal on its website,, on which members may list positions by category, region, skill level and other parameters. The portal is searchable by the public, but only members may post positions.

What do you think has caused this shortage in the skilled trades?

Today’s skilled trades shortage can be attributed to three primary factors:
• Many construction workers lost their jobs during the Great Recession and never returned;
• The American construction workforce is aging out. For every five workers retiring or otherwise leaving the industry, only one is entering;
• There is a significant lack of younger talent pursuing careers in the building/remodeling industry. (This can be attributed to several reasons cited below.)

To quantify the need, 2 million jobs in the construction fields are expected to open up through 2020. Given the dearth of individuals entering the industry, the current scarcity of construction labor is only going to continue to grow.

What are the pros and cons of working in the skilled trades?

When surveyed about their attitudes toward pursuing a career in the construction trades, the top reason young adults cite for not wanting to pursue a career in these fields is they want a less physically demanding job. Many of their other reasons, however, are based on incorrect perceptions. For instance, some believe that construction positions do not pay well, and that these jobs are not very tech-oriented (that is, they don’t require the use of computers or other tech devices). In reality, these objections couldn’t be further from the truth.

According to NKBA members responding to the Association’s Workforce Development Study, there are many appealing benefits to a skilled trades career. The top five being good income potential; the ability to start earning money sooner than a college graduate; steady work; an abundance of jobs to be filled, and the potential to own their own business.

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