Skilled Trades Aren’t Sexy to Gen Z and Millennials!

Wow! Really!?

Here are some other things that might surprise you:

  • They also don’t hang out on Facebook
  • They like Smartphones and using Snapchat
  • You shouldn’t pee into the wind
  • They think you’re old!

No shit, Sherlock, that younger people don’t find the Skilled Trades sexy!

I’m old. I was listening to NPR on way to work the other day and this well-meaning Gen X dude gets on the radio and says, “the problem we have in skilled trades is that teens don’t find them sexy”.

I’m like, of course, they don’t find the skilled trades sexy. Most don’t even know what the heck ‘skilled trades’ means, and if you show them, they still won’t find them ‘sexy’! Okay, well not ‘sexy’, but they should see what a great, stable job the skilled trades can be.

Um, yeah, no, you understand how young people think, right!?

Stable. Good pay and benefits. Something you can do for forty years and get a good retirement and pension. Are all things that will get young people to run away from whatever it is you’re trying to fool them into doing!

So, how do I get young people interested in the Skilled Trades? 

I don’t!!!

I get 35-year-old people interested in skilled trades!

You know what’s great about 35-year-old people? They can start to see the end. Sure that end is 25+ years out, but they start thinking I need to get my life together and do something that is (wait for it!), stable! Something that pays well and has ‘solid’ benefits. Something I can retire doing!

I don’t need 18-25-year-olds to fill skilled trades jobs. Those kids suck at showing up to work and listening! You know who’s really good at showing up to work and listening? 35-year-olds!

If you go into any retail store, gas station, restaurant, etc. and you say, “Hey, I’ve got a job that I’ll train you to do and you can earn a great living and have great benefits until you retire, and you’ll always have a job”, you’ll be like the Pied Piper leading people to your jobs!

The entire way we (and by “we”, I mean you!) is that you go hire 35-year-old people who have shown you that they are willing to show up to work, do work when they show up, but maybe they actually want to add something to their life that gives them a little more stability.

That 18-25-year-old doesn’t want your boring, stable, well-paying job, in which they must dirty their hands. They still have aspirations someone is going to pay them six figures to do nothing and give them a VP title.

By 35 we’ve had that beaten out of us. We’ve been humping $40K jobs for 15 years and we’ve almost, but not quite, given up on hope. You Mrs. Skilled Trades Job Lady are that beacon of hope!!!

Teens won’t solve the skilled trades shortage in America. That is something that is a waste of time for us to try and solve. “So, you, um, want me to stick my hand in a toilet!? Yeah, isn’t there an app for that?”

The 35-year-old has stuck their hands in worst places than toilets and they’re ready to work their butts off for your great skilled trades job. All they need is some love, some training, and a chance.

Skilled Trades jobs aren’t sexy to young people, but you already know that…

5 thoughts on “Skilled Trades Aren’t Sexy to Gen Z and Millennials!

  1. Tim,

    Our organization is very involved with the state legislation as well. Arkansas, where we are headquartered, is one of the more difficult states in the country. The states can do a couple of things:

    1. Truly evaluate the regulations and find a better solution, if there is indeed an issue at hand. For us here in Arkansas, this is our ratio…I can only hire 3 apprentices per licensed tradesman. But on the other end of this, as we all know, there is a giant shortage of licensed tradesman that we can bring on to open up the opportunity to continually bring in apprentices.

    2. The states could do a much better job of prioritizing the trades. We all hear the “college” talk about how we have promoted college and that’s why skilled trades suffer. True for the past couple decades? Sure, you bet! But I see some really great tech programs being implemented in schools all over the country that certainly challenge this notion. They just are not being given the funding. For example, a local high school here just started a construction technology program. The instructor was asked to add plumbing and electrical going into the next school year (2017), the school did not provide him a single piece of material, tool, or curriculum to begin these courses. I do think the governments are doing a great job of talking about this subject, they just aren’t taking practical steps to change it, here at least. As Arkansas’ largest mechanical contractor, we have felt this can be our responsibility and started a school outreach strategy that benefits both the schools and us as an industry. We see this as a possible resolution to this on going issue.

    Why is it not an option to start taking construction technology courses, or even carpentry, electrical, plumbing, etc. all throughout high school and being able to graduate ready to take your Journeyman test? Rather, the students are taking these courses, typically so they don’t have to sit in AP Chemistry, then graduating and learning they would have to start over entirely for their apprenticeship.

    Thanks for all you do, Tim! Always enjoy seeing your daily blog and can’t stop telling people about Talent Fix. Keep it comin!

    • Nathan!

      This is brilliant. All of it.

      Love the idea of high schools having a journey-person’s program where high school grads leave with a card!

      Great stuff,

  2. Great read and some great tactics in the skilled trades! What this article fails to do, and every other article about recruiting in the skilled trades known to man fails to do, is acknowledge the state regulations that force companies to hire licensed tradesman. The answer is always “build your own talent” and this is being done, done exceptionally well I might add. But when a state ratios your workers, ex: 1:1, 3:1, etc. it is impossible to hire enough licensed tradesman to accommodate hiring the next generation of workers and keep up with 25-35% growth at the same time…whether that person is the aforementioned 35 year old, or the 100’s of high schoolers lined up in my ATS waiting for a position to open up. Until government, educators, and industry leaders begin partnering up, we will forever have a gap in the skilled trades work force.

    • Nathan,

      So, help us out – what would the states need to do, to fix this? I speak to the folks in my state, at a government level who want to know, I don’t think they believe they’re the ones in the way.


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