Shortage of Skilled Trades in America
Written by Steve Alvito, Project Manager at Re:Build Optimation
The shortage of workers in the Skilled Trades has been well documented in recent years. An aging population of tradespeople are retiring in great numbers and a gap exists in the experience quotient of younger replacements. This is especially magnified in the industrial sector where project scope, technologies, and environments are more complex. Optimation founder Bill Pollock recognized the need for restocking this talent pool in anticipation of attrition, hiring a coordinator to establish apprenticeship programs in 2007. The programs have since produced 36 graduates and been recognized with multiple awards from the Rochester Technology and Manufacturing Association and the Rochester Business Journal.
I spent eight years as the Optimation Apprentice Coordinator, following Leroy Quick (who established programs for five trades – all NYSDOL registered), and preceding Jonathan Shaffer (who will take the programs to new places). My background as an Industrial Electrician/instrumentation Mechanic prepared me for only a portion of the duties of the title. One thing that I have learned through countless resumes, interviews, and aptitude tests, is that a few intangibles remain constant in all successful candidates. Judging a “good work ethic” is highly subjective, but a person who is engaged and enthusiastic regardless of circumstance or background, will blossom in any role.
Apprenticeships are entry level positions with minimal base requirements. Prior trade education/experience is desirable, but many successful graduates began with no trade or technical background. Our ranks include many who previously worked in related fields (auto mechanics, carpenters, etc.), but also some who were unsatisfied with professional careers (teachers, musicians, geologists, veterinarians, sous chefs, etc.).
After 40+ years of building facilities that make a myriad of products that the world consumes, I am still excited to be involved in these projects. To experience the flow of ideas, the adrenaline of hard labor, the camaraderie of an onsite team, and the commissioning of a new machine or process, is still very satisfying. It is also very satisfying to see the transformation of raw apprentices to journey-workers and beyond. To witness people becoming confident in their careers and able to interact with all the entities involved in moving a project from concept to completion. To see people building personal and professional relationships that sustain a long, satisfying career.
The groundswell of interest in trades, technology, and manufacturing will not abate, the need for young people to focus on these disciplines has never been greater. The mission of Re:Build to help restore American manufacturing is very timely and very urgent. America needs workers, it is critical that we light the path to these careers. From my perspective the opportunities that exist in the Skilled Trades are unparalleled, combining craftsmanship, technology, fitness, adventure, and accomplishment. What an awesome place to be in 2023!
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