COVID-19 has made one thing clear about the American workforce: the skilled trades are deemed essential. By the end of the 2020 school year, 3.7 million high school students and three million college students will have graduated. Young people entering the workforce had difficulty securing jobs even before the pandemic, but with 50 million people currently unemployed, the labor market is at an all time low.
However, even during shutdowns, layoffs, and hiring freezes, skilled technicians remain active at work. The labor of building, installing, and maintaining residential and commercial infrastructure is still in demand. Yet, there is still a skills gap between available skilled trades jobs and qualified workers to fill them. The good news is recent college graduates and high school students are re-evaluating their job prospects due to the shifts in the current economy and labor market.
Gen Z to the Rescue
Gen-Z’s who have grown up in the digital age can help eradicate this problem. This generation is made up of peopling seeking out creative problem-solving careers, which can intertwine greatly with the demand for skilled tradespeople.
Despite a stigma around the trades being a fallback for low-performing students, these skilled jobs and the training associated with them has greatly evolved. As opposed to their corporate counterparts, trade schools and programs have progressed and adapted into the 21st Century at a much quicker pace. Today, training for essential skilled jobs involves 3D models, virtual reality, simulations, and the list goes on. These are the same simulation-based methods that have carefully trained pilots for generations and are now being used to train skilled technicians for the field. Generation Z’s have never known life without technology and have been completely immersed their entire life. This allows them to respond to and quickly learn from these digital platforms.
The main challenge the skilled trades face when recruiting new talent is that young people are steered towards academic and technological pursuits and away from hands-on work. We encourage children to think expansively and explore the world around them but then push teenagers toward four-year college degrees and narrow career paths. But, Gen Z is constructing a new path. Of this generation, 90% reports a desire for a human element in their work due to having grown up immersed in technology. Over 50% of high school students reported an interest in the skilled trades this year. This revived interest is bringing the skilled trades back to the forefront. While this new generation of career-seeking digital whizzes may find a new satisfaction of doing hands on work, training with advanced technology corresponds with their world effortlessly.
After decades, technology is making its way back to the skilled trades with cutting-edge learning platforms. Opportunities are thriving in the trades and the skills gap may finally be diminishing, and it all lies in the digital hands of Generation Z.