By Christine Graf
The nationwide skilled trade labor shortage has reached critical levels as baby boomers continue to retire. Baby boomers make up the majority of the skilled trade workforce, and there aren’t enough qualified younger workers to take their places, say people in the industry.
An estimated 31 million skilled trade workers retired in 2020, and many of those jobs remain unfilled. Sixty-two percent of companies report that they struggle to fill skilled trade labor positions.
“Ten thousand baby boomers are retiring every day. We have to bring in the next generation to fill those jobs,” said Dr. Jonathan Ashdown, dean of science, technology, engineering, and math at Hudson Valley Community College. “We’re doing everything we can at Hudson Valley to meet the demands for today in terms of helping to solve the skills gap issue.”
Local union representatives for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 236 in Albany and UA Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 773 in Glens Falls report that their apprentice programs are in high demand. Both unions have long waiting lists for their multiple-year programs.
According to Mike Martell, assistant business manager at IBEW Local 236, they typically have hundreds of applicants for the approximately 50 spots that are available in their apprenticeship program each year. Union apprenticeships are typically in high demand because union jobs offer above average pay and benefit packages. Local 236 apprentices earn a starting wage of more than $17 an hour and receive an excellent benefit package.
HVCC plans to build a new $65 million facility for skilled trades education. The proposed 130,000-square-foot Applied Technology Education Center (ATEC) will allow the college to expand its training of the skilled technical workforce. Although the college continues to expand capacity, long waiting lists remain for many of their most popular programs.