More Than Rhetoric – Quantifying the Demand for the Skilled Trades

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“I need skilled welders, electricians, metal fabricators, machine operators!” That quote can be attributed to any number of businesses in our regional labor force. It’s been a refrain for many years. Today, due to retirements, transfers and overall net new demand, the numbers behind the rhetoric are becoming a bit staggering. Let’s ask this question – “If 850 welders, electricians and other skilled trades people suddenly got off a bus and stood at the corner waiting for work, how long would it take for them to find a job in our region?” Answer – pretty darn quick.

According to local workforce data provided by our friends at the PA Career Link Blair County, every year between 2016 and 2026, there are on average 361 new job opportunities for these high priority trades. That is just the bottom-line churn within the labor force. The current job postings as of March 2019 through PA Career Link, which is sourced through various online job posting services, quickly ramp up the numbers overall.

In total, across all occupational groups for the six-county Southern Alleghenies region, there were 23,068 online job postings. Of those we grouped only postings that are likely to have the highest demand for skilled trades.  That number was 10,319 or just under half of the total. Let’s then assume (which we think is a safe bet) that at least 10 percent of those jobs are specifically targeting welders, electricians, metal fabricators, and machine operators. That would put current demand, at this minute, at 1,319. Add in the market churn number and we are over 1,700 opportunities in all.

If you need help visualizing this supply-demand challenge like I do, just imagine 23 school busses filled with skilled trades people ready to meet that demand. Efforts are and have been underway to help increase the number of younger adults and transitional workers entering skilled trades occupations. But the reality remains that despite these efforts, it will take several years coupled with new technological advancements to meet the demand. I think we are going to need a bigger bus.

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