Employees in the skilled trades, like home service professionals, are shown to experience high job satisfaction and career growth, and they are considered a vital part of the U.S. economy. However, these industries are facing a shortage of qualified workers. Brad Revare, Director of Corporate Development at Colorado Succeeds, spoke with Mischa Fisher, Chief Economist at HomeAdvisor, about his company’s recent Skilled Trades in America report, which uncovers the challenges facing the talent pipeline and what can be done to close the gaps.
Can you give us a quick introduction to HomeAdvisor, yourself, and why your organization publishes the Skilled Trades in America report every year?
HomeAdvisor matches millions of people across the country with high-quality home pros to complete work across hundreds of different job types for services around the home. Think of everything from building a new custom home or addition, to unclogging a drain, blowing out your sprinklers, or cleaning your house. Our platform facilitates tens of millions of consumer requests every year to be completed by our network of over 200,000 skilled tradespeople.
As the Chief Economist at HomeAdvisor, my goal is to make sure we’re not only properly understanding the entire market for home services in a precise and data driven way, but also that we’re communicating that understanding to homeowners, the media, and skilled tradespeople themselves.
We published the Skilled Trades in America report to do exactly that.
There’s this large, entrepreneurial work force that is not as well understood as it could be, and the consequence of that lack of understanding means that there is a missed opportunity for a fulfilling career for people who don’t consider the trades. The Skilled Trades in America report aims to change that by getting more information out there about what a great career this is, and showing existing skilled tradespeople that there’s an opportunity for growth by doing recruiting better than your competitors.
What’s your top takeaway from this year’s report, and why should the Colorado business and education communities care about the state of skilled trade industries?
There are two top takeaways that really strike me personally as being quite profound. The first is that the skilled trades are exceptionally happy with their choice in work. 82% of pros say they are somewhat or very satisfied in their career choice. And the predominant reason why they list that satisfaction is because of the meaning and value they find in their work.
The second big takeaway for me is that the typical company recruiting in this sector isn’t looking for someone who went to the same fancy school as they did, or a bunch of experience, pre-existing relationships, or cultural fit with their company. Overwhelmingly, what companies are looking for is someone with a strong work ethic, a positive attitude, and a desire to learn. That’s a really powerful story.
The Colorado business and education communities should embrace the trades as another place to encourage young people to pursue a career.
The report states that many in the industry feel there is an overall talent shortage and that many young people are not aware of the wage, skill, and entrepreneurship potential in the industry. Any insights as to why young people are unaware of these benefits?
I think both our education system and culture haven’t prioritized showing the artistry and entrepreneurship that the skilled trades encourage, so the reason young people aren’t aware of these benefits is because we’re collectively not exposing them to these options in the same way as we are for other career paths.
That’s why getting this information out there is so important; there’s room to really expand our cultural and institutional support for the skilled trades.
Only 3% of respondents report engaging with their local school district to build a potential talent pipeline, despite many believing it would help solve the broader talent shortage. Why is there a disconnect? Do you have any guesses as to why either side (trade industry and schools) have not facilitated more beneficial partnerships?
Institutional inertia can be quite powerful. It’s hard to change anything from the way it has always been done to the way it should be done. I think tradespeople probably don’t believe they personally can make a difference and anyone involved in policymaking and the educational system knows that it’s not an environment that is easy to change rapidly to meet changing demands of the labor market. But it does speak to why Colorado Succeeds provides such an important meeting place for the education and business communities, and why we can continue to push for improving the flexibility in the broader system.
Any closing thoughts? As we continue to grapple with COVID heading into 2021, where do you see the trades going?
My big hope, and part of the reason why we’re releasing this report, is that grappling with COVID-19 encourages us as a society to consider alternative educational pathways. Huge parts of the economy were hit pretty hard by the pandemic, but housing and home services have weathered the shock fairly well. So by better guiding our young people into these pathways, we have yet another way to help with the broader recovery.
Mischa’s reflections highlight a critical challenge we face here in Colorado: a need for more quality educational options that connect students to careers in in-demand sectors. A key component of Colorado Succeeds’ Vision 2030 Framework, career-connected learning allows young people to gain experience in a variety of industries, discover their passions, and gain the skills required to meet workforce demands. It’s up to us as business and education leaders to collaborate on policy, practice, and philanthropy to make these opportunities available to all students.