By 2030, the U.S. will be facing a massive shortage of blue-collar workers. Skilled workers in construction and manufacturing are dwindling, and truck drivers already have one of the oldest worker demographics. Staffing firms are scrambling to hire new workers, but the younger generations overwhelmingly choose to work white-collar jobs. Unless there is a massive shift in career orientations, this impending labor crisis could be catastrophic.
The majority of blue-collar workers are over the age of 40. In the trucking industry, the majority of drivers are over 55 — just a few more years from retiring. The rate of new workers entering the workforce cannot compare to the rate of retiring workers. This has led to an ever-dwindling pool of experienced workers or even workers in general. In 10 years, industries must find new sources of labor or downsize their operations. Automation has yet to achieve sufficient efficiency and viability in both construction and manufacturing, and it appears that it will not be able to within that 10 years’ time. Trade schools aren’t as appealing to the younger generation compared to college, as blue-collar work is often seen as unglamorous or dirty.
The Blue-collar and White-collar Pay Gap
White-collar jobs are purported to earn more than $16,900 per year compared to blue-collar jobs. This is not true. This often cited number comes from a National Center for Education Statistics that compared the earnings of college graduates to non-college graduates. A better comparison is between college graduates and trade school graduates. The average college graduate will be earning a salary of $46,900 after five years on the job, while the average trade school graduate will make $39,000. At the 10-year mark, the wages of college graduates will rise to $55,000. On the other hand, trade school graduates receive a sharper increase in salary, reaching $54,000. College graduates might seem to be earning more, but once you factor in the cost of college and the additional two years spent acquiring a degree, trade school graduates surpass their earnings by a large margin.
It’s a Great Time to Learn a Trade
Skilled blue-collar wages are rising across the nation. Working in construction and manufacturing can earn you income that can reach up to $60,000 per year — even higher than the average college graduate’s. Driving for a trucking company may be a bit trickier since you need to be over 21 to drive across states. Trade school costs a fraction of what college costs, and you can start earning for your family and your future earlier. It won’t burden you with heavy college debt that would take years to pay, and you learn only what’s necessary to perform your job. In 5-10 years, the majority of blue-collar workers today would be retired or preparing to retire. This will make you all the more in demand, and you can negotiate premium rates with any employer.
There will be a labor shortage in the next 10 years. It is unavoidable. However, it can be mitigated to some degree if the government and different industry leaders can persuade young students to pursue different career paths.