A nice little Christmas post with the idea of looking at what the average American tradesman will look like in 2050.
Understanding how things will turn out has a lot of different factors for us. Within 5 years, 43% of all US electricians will be ready for retire and very little young blood is replacing them. Industry has been leaving for quite sometime and for most cities throughout the USA being a tradesman tends to require a lot more than it used to.
Our youth do not fit the ideal tradesman starting from the fact 73% of high school seniors, as of 2012, have a drivers license. This trend has been happening for a long time now and seems to only go faster.
The trend actually tends to grow every 10 years. In 1983 the number of drivers licenses were at a rate of 92%,1996 85% and 2012 was 73%. 7% and 12% decline rates we see and it will only get larger overtime. It’s very possible by 2022 the rate can be as low as 56%.
Issues come from a lot of different angles but the main one is the fact many states have enforced much stricter laws on getting a license at the age of 16-18.
So if we wish to bring in new blood into this trade there will be changes that need to be looked at.
The next issue is the way that the mainstream American society tends to make fun of tradesman as low middle class rednecks. I’m sure we’ve all heard the old Plumber’s crack joke.
Not only that but electrical work is perceived as a deadly and frightening profession where you can die at any second, if only the American population knew about the secret of shutting off the power. Plumbers are perceived to be working in pure shit which is only semi true. Their pretty little noses are too sensitive for the smell no matter what the salary is.Concrete and longshoreman though are never really mentioned as jobs until you are within the second 6 months of your trade career.
Perceptions,perceptions and of course perceptions are now causing the aging of our industry.
However there is hope though, I remember talking to a 30 year old post UCLA grad from Jordan who loved his work as a carpenter. He told me everything he learned in UCLA was worthless and only recently found work building shelves just a year ago.
What people don’t understand is that there is still an under current of people who would love this work but have never heard of it. So many kids out there failing classes and feeling like losers when they don’t even realize how good they can be in construction.
How to solve the problem?
Unions need to start going to high schools and start promoting themselves. Promotion at an early age may spark interest in kids who are not doing well in school. Promises of high wages and good benefits can spark anyone’s attention.
The drivers license issue needs to be looked at in order to say that anyone can join us. Understand there are many new ways of getting around town besides just a car. Uber and Lyft have provided excellent sources of travel without the need for a drivers license. Although you do need a license as a service technician, yes some jobs require you to drive the company vehicle but you do need to say for construction jobs, you don’t care how you get there just get there on time.
And last but not least a topic that has not been brought up is the need for the re industrialization of the United States. Automated factories can easily bring in a lot of attention from skilled electricians.
If nobody takes action?
Then the future looks to be a very old one. Very little work is ever done and the average tradesman will be around 40 or 50. Apprentices will probably be in their mid to late thirties and the next 40-50% drop can easily occur.
The talent will be heading into engineering work but who will be left to do the dirty? Hispanic labor should not be relied on due to the fact the children of the present day Hispanic tradesman are becoming engineers,doctors and lawyers. The California state university system is seeing huge spikes in Latinos becoming engineers.
So most of the trades workers will probably be coming from the prison system. Ex gang members will be the main source of labor and the trades will only sink lower in reputation. And employment will have no choice but to overlook felonies and crimes in order to hire these people. Once that happens then how will you have a trustworthy team of individuals and how will this not affect the quality of work?