Shortage of skilled labor could mean backlog, higher costs for you

CLEVELAND - With the unemployment rate so low — just 3.7 percent — and job openings at a record-high 7 million, data shows half of all contractors are concerned about the skill level of the workforce and a shortage of workers.

So what does that mean for you?

It means a backlog and longer wait times when it comes to getting work done — and it could mean it will cost you more in terms of labor.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, since 2010, skilled trades like electricians, carpenters, plumbers, and masons have been in the number one spot when it comes to vacancies.

The HVAC technician industry is also suffering from the shortage.

“There is definitely a need, yes,” said Robert Kushner, an HVAC instructor at Remington College in Cleveland. “We try to fill that need but there are just not enough people who come through here to meet all of those needs.”

Kushner said companies are constantly coming to him, looking for qualified workers. He thinks the shortage may have to do with the push toward higher education in recent decades.

“I think a lot of times, people are told when they’re in high school they gotta go to college and get a degree in psychology or something,” Kushner said. “I think they get steered in that direction and it leaves a vacancy for those blue-collar type jobs.”

Ricardo Tompkins is a maintenance supervisor at Buckingham Company. He said for those looking for work, his best advice is to make your own way.

“Going to college and getting a business degree, you’re only working for somebody else. When you get a skilled trade, you can work for yourself. so if you can’t find a job, you can create your own job,” Tompkins said. “Once you a learn a skilled trade, you can always make money.”

The average starting salary for an HVAC technician is about $15 an hour.

Experts believe that employers are going to have to start doing more to entice workers, likely through pay raises, training and other incentives. Those increased costs will likely end up getting passed on.

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