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Blue-collar jobs may help millions of unemployed Americans get back to work

skilled trade post-pandemic jobs
Posted at 2:05 PM, Mar 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-03 16:05:18-05

Blue-collar jobs may be part of what helps millions of Americans get back on their feet. There are currently tens of thousands of open jobs in the construction and skilled trade industry, and substantially, there are more jobs expected over the next year and decade.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 5 percent job growth in the construction industry over the next 10 years. That growth will likely be fueled by the current housing market boom, along with an expected infrastructure bill from Congress.

“In the last 30 days, we have seen a 300 percent increase in posted positions for drywall finishers,” said Demond Ware.

Ware is the construction director at the construction staffing agency People Ready.

“Tile setters, oil makers, cement and concrete finishers, those are all at 70 plus percent,” Ware added. "Skilled-construction workers, just laborers those are at a 57 percent increase.”

“To me, we are coming into what I call the perfect storm,” said John Jacobs, who is with the skilled labor union IBEW Local 494.

Jacobs explained the expected growth in new construction jobs will be magnified with the rate of people retiring.

“We are wrapping up the last of the Baby Boomers, which were retiring at a rate of 10,000 a day, and now, the next onslaught of retirement is going to be my generation,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs added the industry expects 25 to 30 percent of Generation X construction workers to retire in the next 10 years, which will mean an even more substantial need for skilled workers.

“One of the benefits in the construction industry, right now, is it there is a shortage,” said Ware. “So, supply and demand dictate that all the trades are paying as much as possible to attract the talent.”

On average, entry-level workers make more than $15 an hour, and many fields have to potential to make $35 to $100 an hour in just a few years.

“The construction field, is honestly, should be one of the biggest targets people should be going for,” said Kayin Williams.

Williams was a recent high school graduate when the pandemic started in the U.S.

“Trying to find a job, as the pandemic hit, especially coming right off of high school, honestly it was devastating,” Williams added.

While Williams was able to find two part-time jobs as an essential worker, it still wasn’t enough to live off. Then, he came across a free 10-week program through the Social Development Commission (SDC) in Milwaukee. The program called Absolute Advantage trains and prepares people for careers in construction.

“We only go after jobs and put training programs in place that have real opportunity,” said George Hinton, CEO of SDC. "That gives them true opportunity to move out of poverty.”

Hinton believes a career in construction is one of the fastest and most stable ways many in lower-income communities can get out of a life of poverty. Williams, for example, will have a job when he graduates making at least $15 an hour, and as an aspiring welder, he could make up to $40 an hour in just a few years.

“If you need to start your life up again, or get back into it, this is one way to do it,” said Williams.

“It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, the industry is open to everyone,” added Hinton.

SDC’s program in Milwaukee is just one of many around the country helping people get into the construction industry. In fact, there are similar programs in every state across the country just within SDC’s larger Community Action network. For information on one of their programs in your state click here.