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Shortage of skilled workers despite the potential for high paying careers

Posted at 8:04 AM, Jan 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-22 19:23:47-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN9) — Our Two America series focuses on segments of the population you might not know much about, and it seems like one area of the workforce has been overlooked in recent years. Despite trade jobs promising high paying salaries without student loans, industries across the country are reporting a shortage of skilled workers. We talked to a local man on a mission to help young people discover opportunities in the trades and we looked into a program available to get people into the trades.

Pima County JTED Construction Instructor Craig Bal has built a nice life, but he says it all started with a part-time job cleaning and organizing tools on a construction site.

“The construction guys loved me because I was getting them ready for the next day,” said Bal. And I loved it because four hours at ten dollars an hour that is 40 bucks. I could not make that at the donut shop.”

Bal later joined the military where he received more certifications, got a job drilling oil out of the service, and eventually saved enough money to start ranching in Arizona. He says his trade skills continue to come in handy.

“We pump water, we have to run electricity and fix irrigation lines, there’s plumbing and electricity right there, we don’t call an electrician, I've built barns, we don’t call a carpentry company we do it ourselves.”

Now he is teaching at Pima County JTED where he hopes to inspire students.

"I want to show them there is so much opportunity out there.”

Bal is not the only one hoping more people get into the trades in southern Arizona. The VP of Operations at Tucson Asphalt says a shortage of workers can limit the jobs they take. They are hiring for several positions.

“We have from paving operators to screed operators to general laborers, to those who want to work on our crack seal team, said Ramon Gaanderse. “So there are a lot of avenues.”

Career and technical education is a great way for young people to get started in the trades, butthere are also programs for people who have been out of school for a few years.

“We’ve got apprentice's that are registered electricians at 59 years old,” said State Apprenticeship Coordinator William Higgins. “So it’s up to the person. If you want to learn it, there are people who want to put you through the program.”

Higgins says 92% of people who complete their free program retain employment. And the average starting salary after the program is $72,000 dollars a year.

“You are paid, your wages increase as your skills gain, and it's a great opportunity for the employer to nurture that person and pour their company culture into them.”

Bal says opportunities are out there for people who do not mind getting their hands dirty.

"If you show up on time, have a positive attitude, and you work hard I promise you, not always, but eventually it will come your way."