With more than 76 million baby boomers entering retirement, the reality of an aging workforce is already upon us. That's why it is more important than ever for employers to be prepared in advance for this shift — not only with an efficient way to transfer the required skills from employees who have mastered this information for decades, but with the talented workers who are trained and ready to do the job.
The realities of an aging infrastructure, urbanization and a mature workforce all remain, and as the economy continues to improve, the demand for skilled labor will be even more significant. In looking specifically at the skilled trade sector, demand is not keeping up with supply.
For example, according to demand projected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2014, the U.S. will need 29% more HVACR technicians and 21% more plumbing technicians — a total of more than 100,000 skilled workers in the job pool. Furthermore, the demand for plumbers, specifically, is expected to grow 10% by 2016, but due to the aging generation of skilled professionals, more than a third of all plumbers, or approximately 167,000 workers, will be exiting the workforce, further emphasizing why recruitment is more important than ever.
So how can we best communicate to young people who are examining their career options that the skilled trade sector can provide a challenging and rewarding career? Here are a few suggestions on how your business can stay ahead of the aging workforce dilemma and encourage young people to join the trades:
1. Communication: Communication is king, and today, with workforce generations ranging in age from 21 to 65, bridging generational differences can be challenging. Older employees typically prefer face-to-face contact, while younger generations often embrace less personal options such as e-mail, text messages and instant messages. Learning how to communicate to your different audiences with these tools and the right messages can create an atmosphere that is comfortable for all.
2. Education: Encourage your current workforce to educate students. Many times, students and/or young professionals are not interested in the skilled trade sector simply because they have not been exposed to it. A recent survey conducted by RIDGID revealed that 21% of students who would not consider a career in the skilled trades said it's because they don't know enough about it. And 15% of students would not consider a career in the skilled trades because they don't believe there is a lot of opportunity. These results show that there is a great opportunity to educate students and potential workers who may simply not be informed.
3. Social Media: Encourage senior managers to be active on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, forums, etc., and offer the proper training your team needs to use these tools correctly and effectively. Not only does this allow you to further connect with your customers, but attract a newer, younger audience to join the trades. These social networking channels often go unused because they're simply unfamiliar territory. Don't let fear of the unknown get in the way of the opportunity to connect.
The need to deal with an aging workforce is more urgent than ever before, but if we start encouraging young professionals to join the skilled trade sector now, we'll be fully equipped to navigate the changing landscape.
Wyatt Kilmartin is director of RIDGID Branding for the Ridge Tool Co.