By: Allie Perez
Indisputably, the United States finds itself in the midst of a skilled labor shortage. Baby boomers continue to retire and leave skilled labor jobs unfilled. High school students flock to colleges leaving skilled labor jobs unfilled. Unable to fill existing jobs limits a company’s ability to attract new business with not enough employees to complete the work. The military spends approximately $1 billion a year to recruit, colleges almost $1.5 billion. Without the capital and national efforts to entice workers to the trades, the industry must consider additional tactics.
The most obvious choice might not be reaching out to the unemployed, but it should be. Particularly, targeting the minority demographics of the unemployed population could yield fruitful results. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for women hovers around 3.5%, African Americans hover around 6.8%, Hispanic/Latinos hover around 5% and for teenagers around a staggering 13% are unemployed. Targeting these unemployed demographics, which constitute over 28% of unemployed working age people in the United States, works to fill the gaps that the trades industry needs to fill.
Naturally, one asks, “How?!” An exact model or blueprint for this type of recruitment does not exist. The negative of that is every effort must be rehearsed, executed and re-examined for efficiency to calculate the value of the effort. On a positive note, employers delve into uncharted territory and may happen upon a truly effective method for recruitment.
Below are a few recommendations for reaching out to the unemployed, particularly minority demographics, to fill the skilled labor gap:
- Build Community Relationships – Reach out to local unemployment agencies. A quick internet search will yield the best contact for local unemployment agencies. Ask them about opportunities to partner or participate in their events or workshops. Offer to sponsor a breakfast or lunch which is an effective opportunity to get in front of potential candidates.
- Host a Local Job Fair – Individually or a group of tradespeople can sponsor and host their own job fair. These job fairs can be as formal or casual as you want. Market with key words “on site interviews.” Offering on-site interviews allows the candidate to acquire multiple interviews simultaneously. Create a list of qualifiers and be specific. Do not waste your time or theirs.
- Partner with local trade schools and high schools – Local high school counselors often lack information about the skilled trades as a career option. Provide them with your contact information. Offer to setup a table at lunch time or after school. Technical schools often assist with job placement when the trade courses are completed. This helps them improve their job placement rates. Reach out to counselors at trade or vocational skills and tap their recent graduates. Again, offer to sponsor a breakfast or lunch to find yourself in front of potential candidates.
- Research local apprenticeship opportunities – Highlight these opportunities to potential job seekers. Offering workers the resources for education will entice them to consider the skilled trades. Encouraging skilled trades education and offering that as a benefit to employees, helps them to evaluate the skilled trades as a career option, not just a job. Reinforce that skilled trades apprentices are paid by the employer to work in the industry AND the employer pays for their skills training.
- Market key phrases – Market phrases such as, “our industry offers job security,” “skilled trades jobs are economy safe,” “learn a trade, build a future.” This will appeal to the unemployed worker’s presumed dissatisfaction with their current state of unemployment. Encouraging unemployed workers to bring a friend helps them feel more comfortable applying for a new job and could potentially bring another candidate through your door.
The skilled labor gap will not fill itself. To fill the gap, the industry must think creatively to attract workers at every possible opportunity. Unemployed workers constitute a large portion of the eligible workers population. The trades industry should capitalize on their job search to implant themselves into their career options. By using the tactics above, an employer can broaden their candidate pool and potentially fill jobs left vacant by the aging of many workers in the trades industry.
Allie Perez founded Texas Women in Trades, an organization working to bring more women, minorities and young people to the trades. She also serves as the VP of Marketing and Operations at George Plumbing Co. in San Antonio. To contact Allie directly, email firstname.lastname@example.org