Where Are America's Skilled Tradespeople?

construction site manager...

Four in 10 American employers report they are having difficulty filling open positions, according to the latest annual survey by the Milwaukee-based ManPower Group.

For the fifth consecutive year, the jobs that are hardest to fill fall into the category of skilled trades. This broad category covers professions in manufacturing, construction and services industries that require training and experience, and may also demand a two-year certificate or completion of a formal apprenticeship.

Job categories include plumbers, elevator mechanics, construction inspectors, bricklayers and refrigerator repair technicians.

The ManPower Group cites these as the rest of the top 10 toughest jobs to fill:

More than half of the employers surveyed said the talent shortage has a medium to high impact on their ability to meet the needs of their customers.

The talent shortage is a global problem. Worldwide, 36% said they had trouble filling positions. That's a seven-year high for the survey.

ManpowerGroup surveyed 37,000 employers in 42 countries and territories for the annual survey.

The most frequent shortcoming of available candidates was a lack of technical skills, followed by a lack of "soft skills," the personal qualities that enable an employee to work effectively in a group.

For those needing more evidence that a college education is not the sole pathway to a successful career, a Harvard University study concludes that 30 percent of the new jobs that are expected to be created by 2018 require an associate's degree or a post-secondary certificate, not a four-year academic degree.

Harvard is hardly likely to denigrate the importance of a college degree. But, it argues that the American educational system has been too narrowly focused on "an academic, classroom-based approach" to preparing its young people for the future.

It advocates apprenticeship programs and community colleges as viable alternate routes to successful careers.

US News & World Report's ranking of the best 100 jobs in 2014 includes a number of positions for skilled trades workers. Among the top-rated jobs are maintenance and repair worker, exterminator, glazier, plumber, steelworker and painter. The magazine's rankings are based on the jobs' work-life balance as well as pay, security and opportunity.

One factor cited in the shortage of qualified workers is the aging of the current workforce, those who came of age in an era that still prized skilled trades.