Industries to Watch: Skilled Trades

skilled trade jobsProfessions that require hands-on talent, such as electrical repair, plumbing and HVAC maintenance, fall under the category of skilled trade. You might wonder, "Don't all jobs require skills?" Although the industry name sounds vague, it does point out the unique position of these workers because their skills are tangible in a way that many others aren't.

If, on the coldest morning of the year, your heater stops working, you have to call a HVAC maintenance worker to find out what's wrong. You can't Skype him in or chat with him online. The only way for you to stop seeing your own breath in the cold air of your living room is to have someone come out and work on your heating unit.

Why you should consider it

In a recent Talent Shortage Survey conducted by employment agency Manpower Inc., employers cited skilled trade positions as the most difficult openings to fill. According to the survey, "Skilled trades refers to a broad range of job titles that require workers to possess specialized skills, traditionally learned over a period of time as an apprentice."

In 2010, production of new homes increased 6.1 percent over the previous year, according to the National Association of Home Builders. In December 2010, new housing permits rose 16.7 percent, which signals an impending jump in the construction industry. For skilled trade workers, whose jobs often depend on construction of new homes and buildings, a positive outlook for new apartments and houses is one indicator that business could improve in 2011.

What you need

Although most skilled trade professions don't require a four-year degree, you do need a mix of talent, experience and sometimes a certification or license. Certifications and licenses are often obtainable in less than a year -- sometimes in a matter of weeks, depending on the concentration. Vocational schools, career colleges and technical schools can save you money and time when compared to the expense of earning a two- or four-year diploma.

If your interests lie in the skilled trades and an apprenticeship or certification appeals to you, then you might be one of the most in-demand workers on the market. And according to the Manpower survey, you're not just sought-after here in the United States. Skilled trade workers are the most difficult to find in the global survey of employers; therefore, few workers are more attractive than you right now.

Jobs to consider

To give you an idea of what skilled trade positions are in demand, here are a few positions mentioned in the survey and their expected growth over the coming decade:

1. Electrician

Unless we manage to become a society free of electricity, electricians will continue to be in high demand. Every skyscraper, home, high-rise and storefront needs the expertise of an electrician at certain times. In other words, they won't be going away anytime soon; the most current Bureau of Labor Statistics projects estimate a 12 percent increase of electricians by 2018, totaling a workforce of 777,900 workers. *

What they earn: $58,518 **

2. Carpenter

For every new project requiring an electrician, you can be certain a carpenter is also nearby. When you see a home being built, carpenters are creating the frame, putting up walls, installing windows and doing anything else necessary to give life to the new structure. That's why the BLS expects 1.45 million carpenters to be employed by 2018, a 13 percent increase over the decade.

What they earn: $41,727

3. Plumber

Although plumbers are involved in new construction projects, they are also in high demand due to ongoing maintenance needs in households and businesses. When a pipe bursts, has a clog or a leak -- events that seem to occur at the worst possible times -- plumbers save the day. Although we wish plumbing problems would disappear, they're not going anywhere, which is why you can expect a 15 percent increase over the next decade. In 2018, the total number of plumbers, pipe-fitters and steamfitters could reach 570,500.

What they earn: $51,369

4. Welder

By definition, welding is the processing of joining together two pieces of metal, often using heat. That simple definition fails to convey how many products require the skills of welders. According to the BLS, over 100 processes use welding, including manufacturing of automobiles, ships and spacecraft. Expect to see a work force of 405,600 welders by 2018. And with the U.S. automotive industry bouncing back after its 2008 bailout, 2010 was a strong year for car production. Automotive output in Alabama alone experienced a 52 percent increase in 2010, suggesting that welders in these production plants will be busy well into 2011.

What they earn: $46,657

5. Heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers

Because heating and cooling systems need service and maintenance year-round at both commercial and residential properties, HVAC mechanics and installers are constantly in demand. With a 28 percent increase by 2018, the number of HVAC mechanics and installers could total 394,800.

What they earn: $54,366

* BLS employment projects are based on 2008-2018 figures.
** Earnings figures based on

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