By: Allie Perez
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has brought new words into the average American vernacular. One such word, thrown around at every press conference or piece of proposed legislation; “essential.” On March 16, 2020, President Trump outlined specifically which industries fall under “essential.” Classified under the jurisdiction of the Cybersecurity and infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the guidance provided by the President works to ensure “continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security.” This classification has been tested in states across the country who work to define the semantics separating “essential” and “non-essential” workers.
Defining differences between new construction site builds such as building skyscrapers – which most consider not essential construction – versus skilled trades service workers who repair and replace emergency appliances and issues, has brought intense debates on a national level.
Unions and trade organizations work to ensure the safety of their workers by delving into the definition of “essential.” Some states, like California and Nevada, continue to allow home building after enacting shelter-in-place orders for their states. Other states, like New York, opted to shut down all construction sites to protect workers in dense populations.
Essentially, the federal government defined “essential” business vaguely and allows the states to elucidate further restrictions upon their residents. Trades unions and organizations fight for worker safety and livelihoods. Trade associations, like the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC,) urged decision makers to examine the various facets of the construction industry and provide construction industry small business owners with financial opportunities to remain afloat. Unions and trades organizations walk a tight rope of balancing worker safety while encouraging work to ensure job security.
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has shone a spotlight on the importance of essential workers such as skilled trade workers. The skilled labor gap widens every year as the older generation of skilled trade workers retires out of their trades. Without a strong number of apprentices to fill their spots, the skilled trades habitually lack skilled trade workers. Being considered an essential worker is only one of the many benefits of a skilled trades career.
Reasons to choose a skilled trade career path:
- Affordable Training: Service and construction companies will pay for your school. Companies and organizations, like Brasscraft and the PHCC Educational Foundation, offer full scholarships for Department of Labor (DOL) approved apprenticeship programs. No need to acquire pricey student loans with ridiculous interest rates.
- On-the-Job Training: The skilled trades offer an opportunity to earn while you learn. Most apprenticeship programs require you work with a licensed contractor to complete on the job hours in addition to classroom study and training. You can complete training without debt and already have a job upon completion of training.
- Geography Resistant: Every community in every country in the world requires skilled trades workers. Feel free to travel the world and be comforted knowing you will always have a job.
- Economy Resilient: With Coronavirus (COVID-19) bringing the economy to its knees, its important to note that the majority of skilled trade workers are considered “essential” and are able to continue to work, safely.
- Pay and Benefits: Due to a lack of skilled workers, companies and unions offer top tier pay, sign on bonuses and impressive benefits.
- Job Satisfaction: Pride of craftsmanship is an understatement. Skilled trade careers allow workers to view their growth, progress and contributions to their communities daily.
- Career Growth and Options: Skilled trades workers have opportunities to advance their careers or change career focus thanks to a plethora of options within the skilled trade industry. From skilled trade work, to management to estimating, the skilled trades provides a bevy of options to suit your personal interests.
In its thus-far short time on the global stage, the Coronavirus has forced ingenuity through necessity. It’s also forced a conversation of dividing an essential industry into essential and non-essential brackets within itself. However one interprets the law, it is clear that aspects of the construction industry are essential. Hopefully, those whose employment has been affected will turn their sights towards an essential career path like the skilled trades and help to close the skilled labor gap.
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