Here is a startling statistic. Even if every single person who has the skills to work in the durable goods manufacturing industry had a job, the industry would only fill 44% of the vacancies, according to a report from the Chamber of Commerce.
Another report from the Conference Board, says that this shortage will last until 2030.
The report lays out the reasons for the shrinking supply of this talent.
- The Baby Boomer exodus: Baby Boomers perform much of the nation’s blue-collar work, but they are leaving the workforce in droves. The proliferation of retiring Baby Boomers will continue through 2030.
- Dismal growth in the working-age population: Amid this Baby Boomer exodus, the working-age population has largely stopped growing. The US economy has never before experienced a swell of retirements amid near-zero growth in its working-age population.
- Disappointing recovery in overall labor force participation: The tight labor market has brought more individuals into the workforce, but participation hasn’t grown fast enough to prevent it from further tightening.
- Men without a college degree are less likely to work: Their declining workforce participation results, in part, from more of them being single, living with their parents, and having less of a need to earn an income.
- Large increase in disability rates: The share of people not in the labor force due to disability has soared and is now at a record high, with a strong concentration in the South and the Midwest.
- More young adults are avoiding the trades, instead pursuing college: As a growing share of young adults enroll in four-year colleges, the number of working-age people with a bachelor’s degree continues to increase. Meanwhile, the number without a bachelor’s degree – those who typically choose blue-collar jobs – continues to shrink.
- Young adults are much less likely to be in the labor force: The decline in labor force participation of 16-24-year-olds significantly reduces the supply of workers in jobs that hire young, less-educated workers. Since this trend mostly results from more young people attaining higher education, it’s positive from a societal perspective.
There are some strategies to address this, according to an article on SHRM. Here are a few.
Look in All of the Right Places
The author interviewed Eric Mochnacz, director of operations at Red Clover, an HR consulting firm, who noted that blue-collar workers might not be using the same sources for job searches.
"We identified where we believed skilled trades workers, traditionally referred to as blue collar, were searching for jobs," said Mochnacz, who works with a team of seven other employees to recruit for construction industry clients. "They most likely weren't looking on LinkedIn, but rather on Indeed and Craigslist. So that's where we centered our search."
Much like companies have adapted their application process when it comes to hiring veterans, the same needs to be true of this talent. Not everyone has a resume. Mochnacz suggests leaning more on a phone interview to determine the specific skills the particular job requires.
While many companies have referral programs, this is mostly at the white-collar level. Mochnacz said that when he realized many of blue-collar employees were referred he put in a formal program that pays $1,000 for a referral.