Jeremy Lindquist, Training Director of Plumber and Steamfitters Local Union 33
I bet you’ve heard of this not-so-little thing called the skills gap. The U.S., for several years now, has experienced a lack of skilled workers to fill the increasing number of high-skilled jobs. The trades – like mine in plumbing and pipefitting – are often cited when this topic comes up. But recent studies indicate that gap is evident in many other areas, like IT, health care, and even insurance and banking. A study for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation showed that demand for workers in business and financial operations exceeded supply by 21%. Not great news for the insurance capital of the world.
Over the last few years in my role as training director for Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 33, I’ve recognized some shifts and trends that I think will be necessary to successfully bridge the skills gap. Online job boards and outsourced recruiting may not cut it for you in the future. Consider these thoughts and the benefits of taking training into your own hands.
- Cultivate the skills you need: This is honestly all about control. There are people who want jobs or want a change in jobs. But they may not have the resume you’re looking for or the skills you think are necessary. Instead of wringing your hands about the lack of education in traditional school systems, start training workers yourself. Apprenticeships like ours, which is registered through the Iowa Registered Apprenticeship Program – called Earn & Learn – are highly effective. I’m biased, for sure. But the U.S. Department of Labor has data that shows a 128% increase in registered apprenticeships over the last 10 years in a wide variety of fields, so something must be working. Remember that apprenticeships have been around forever, so there is no reason it wouldn’t work in your industry. Just talk to the people at Earn & Learn. They’ll set you up so effectively and fast, you’d wish you started a long time ago.
- Increase employee confidence and dedication: When you take training into your own hands and really, truly dedicate your time to this effort, you’ll see a spike in employee satisfaction and reduced turnover. In fact, the Work Institute’s annual retention report shows that lack of career development has been the leading factor in turnover for eight years running. Imagine how that might shift for you company if you already had training and career-mapping baked into your HR processes from day one. And let’s be clear – an annual review isn’t going to cut it. Start thinking deep about how training and development can be made intrinsic to your organization, not merely procedural. Creating formal mentorships is just one example.
- Find candidates in new places: We need to change our thinking on who to recruit. It’s no secret that many of the industries that have a skills gap are male-dominated. We’re missing a huge piece of the workforce by not diversifying. And that extends beyond gender. If you have developed a solid training program within your company, it’s easier to fully develop great employees from a variety of backgrounds. Consider military members who may lack four-year degrees but are known to be highly trainable. Or what about those with criminal backgrounds? SHRM’s 2019 study of the skills gap showed that 66% of managers who have hired individuals with criminal backgrounds say that the quality of work is comparable to that of people without a criminal record.
Taking training into your own hands is becoming necessary to keep our industries rolling. It’s not a fringe benefit of HR or work culture anymore. For the last eight years college enrollment has been on the decline. This means there are fewer and fewer people with the resumes you want entering the workforce. So let’s focus on creating registered apprenticeships and training programs – across industries – that make the most of the workforce we do have available.