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Skills Shortages is a Global Issue

With global unemployment still high and millions of people filing for jobless benefits each week, the lack of artisan based tradesmen may seem a little counterintuitive, but the fact remains, this trend has been years in the making. As far back as December 2007, it was determined that “America is no longer a skill-abundant country compared with the rest of the world. As a result, in the coming decade, the country could face broad and substantial shortages.” This forecast is now a reality, recently unmasked by the reduction in unemployment and a pick-up in demand.

Worldwide Skills Shortages

Traditional trade based manual labour jobs have been devalued within many developed economies. This is becoming a real issue as fewer young workers are replacing aging tradesmen. According to published statistics 53% of skilled trade workers in the U.S. were older than 45 in 2012, with almost 19% between 55 and 64 years of age. Similar statistics are reported in both Australia and Europe. In the UK grumblings about skills shortages are exacerbated as migration has helped keep unemployment numbers down.

According to one US Company, “only one skilled worker is entering the workforce for every three who are retiring or leaving.”

It seems artisan trades are not looked upon with the admiration that they once were. Ironically in these uncertain times the need for men in overalls is much higher than those in suits.

Contributory factors:

  • Parents and teachers driving the importance of a conventional college education
  • Apprenticeships were abandoned worldwide for a generation, excepting in Germany
  • Kids today have a different view of manual labour than generations before
  • Many think that unions’ losing their bargaining rights has played a role, as numbers of skilled trade-type union members has fallen worldwide
  • Male dominance in the workplace is falling. Historically skilled trades have been dominated by men
  • The introduction of computers and the world wide web into everyday lives.

In reality, it’s a combination of factors, rather than one specific reason, but the fact remains the world will need tradesmen in the future. Our company knows only too well the difficulties faced in placing much needed tradesmen into areas where shortages exist. We get around these difficulties by working closely with employers and adopting flexible systems.

House building tends to be a barometer of demand and with the USA ahead of the rest of the world in terms of recovery these statistics are directional for all recovering economies:

  • 33% of the members of the Home Builders Association reported having trouble finding enough skilled trades to meet demand
  • 46% of the National Association of Home Builders said they were falling behind on jobs in March because they could not find enough workers.

Please note that whilst homebuilding is certainly picking back up, compared to recent years, the pace is still far below peaks in 2006.  In July, USA housing starts rose 5.9% from June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 846,000.  By comparison, at peaks during 2006, housing starts were at an annual rate of 2.3 million.

In conclusion, a global problem exists in the provision of skilled labour. Whilst organisations like our own are working hard to plug the gaps, support needs to be offered by governments, educators parents and employers around the globe.

 

Author: Chris Slay

Skills Provision International will allow our articles/quotes to be reproduced on other formats as long as full accreditation is given.