Young workers going into the trade fields, like carpentry and pipe insulation, are optimistic about the future of construction and manufacturing in Wisconsin.
Speaking at a statewide construction skills competition put on by the Wisconsin chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors on Friday, fifth year electrician’s apprentice Justin Ashauer said he’s pleased he opted to forego a career that would have required a four-year college degree.
“The rate that your income increases is much quicker in the trades,” Ashauer said.
Gov. Scott Walker has promoted skilled labor jobs, like in manufacturing and construction, on a tour around the state that began this week.
Walker said Wisconsin is currently facing a skills gap. He said there are not enough skilled workers seeking employment to fill open jobs in the trades.
“Employers are telling me their number one issue is work force,” Walker said following a speech at the State Education Convention in Milwaukee on Friday.
“What employers are telling me is not only that they need to fill the positions they have vacant, but that if they could fill them and have the confidence they could do so in a timely fashion, that many of those employers would add more work,” Walker said.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, there were “nearly 2,000 employment opportunities in the construction trades,” in October of 2015.
A spokesperson for the DWD said demand for such workers tends to drop during the winter months and then pick back up as the weather warms.
The DWD also said employment growth in construction occupations which utilize apprenticeship programs is expected to grow by roughly 13,000 positions through 2022.
Jessica Cannizzaro, owner of Milestone Plumbing in Wauwatosa, said she’s noticed a lack of available workers to hire.
“We definitely have a labor shortage,” she said. “This summer was a busy summer and a lot of companies were stuck turning work away.”
“We’ll look to add another plumber and another apprentice in the near future,” Cannizzaro said.
Fourth year carpentry apprentice Charles Vine said he thinks a lack of interest in the trades among his peers is in part due to their school teachers and counselors.
“It seems like, in high school, the trades are not pushed as heavily as a four year college degree or even a two-year degree,” Vine said, “and that’s fine.”
“But instead of going to a four-year college with no goal in mind, I was approached by an employer through friends and decided to go into carpentry,” he said.
Vine said he hopes to eventually become a construction foreman or site manager.
Winners at Friday’s competition in the categories of plumbing, HVAC, carpentry, heat and frost insulation, and electrical will go on to represent Wisconsin in a national construction skills competition in Florida.