There are an estimated 1 million unfilled skilled trades job opportunities in the nation—jobs such as electricians, carpenters, pipefitters and heavy equipment operators. In an interview between the Observer-Reporter and Jeff Nobers, executive director of the Builders Guild of Western Pennsylvania, we are made aware that within the next seven to 10 years, between 40 and 50 percent of the guild’s 41,000 members will retire.


That number stands true even outside of the state of Pennsylvania. In 2012, Forbes reported that 53 percent of skilled trade workers in the U.S. were 45 years and older and 18.6 percent were between the ages of 55 and 64. With baby boomers approaching retirement, it is critical that young workers are prepared to replace the baby boomers in order to limit the potential effects of the shortage of workers on the American economy.


If you are reading this and are unaware of the process behind becoming a skilled trade worker, let us give you the brief on the process. Skilled trade workers begin their careers as apprentices where they are offered paid training, a living wage and rich health care benefits. Depending on the trade, apprenticeships can last from three to five years, earning more money each year. Once they are finished with their apprenticeship, they become journeymen with access to hundreds of skill advancement programs.


Sounds appealing, doesn’t it? Especially for those who aren’t considering college. Unfortunately, however, the trades find themselves continuously trying to overcome misconceptions about them. If you haven’t already, take a look at our blog Seven Common Misconceptions About Unions.


Additionally, the perception of the construction industry is that these are low-end jobs or that wearing a suit and tie equals success, whereas work boots and a hard hat produce a different perception. Luckily, those who are in and around the construction industry know that with experience and fine skill comes workplace success, dignity and financial peace of mind.


The shortage that the construction trades are facing today represents a tremendous opportunity for a multitude of people. Paid schooling, rich health benefits, and hands-on learning are only a few of the perks one would have if they began their apprenticeship.


Let’s all work together to change the perception of this industry while continuing to promote the importance of quality craftsmanship.


If you or someone you know may be interested in skilled trade apprenticeships, please email Labor United at