There’s a lot of talk in the construction industry about the skills gap and for good reason. 70 percent of construction firms say they are having difficulty filling hourly craft positions, according to the AGC and Autodesk’s 2017 Construction Workforce Shortage Survey. The challenge of finding qualified workers is only expected to increase as many contractors anticipate a high number of their most senior people retiring in the next decade.

At the crux of the skills gap is the simple fact that 75 percent of all jobs available in construction don’t require a formal education; they require specialized training in trades like carpentry, sheet metal installation, and concrete work. These are skills that people in the job market simply don’t have.

Elevating the Perception of the Trades

What can be done to close the skills gap? Training in specialized trades is the obvious solution, but according to Mike Rowe, first, we must change the perception of the trades. A few weeks ago, Procore hosted a live event with Mike Rowe called Tech, Trades and the Next 10 Years where Procore CEO Tooey Courtemanche chatted with Mike about the skills gap and some of the things he’s doing to solve it. Mike has been an advocate for the trades since the first episode of Dirty Jobs aired on the Discovery Channel in 2005. More recently, mikeroweWORKS Foundation has granted over three million in funding for education at trade schools across the country.

During his interview with Procore, Mike talked about how changing the perception of the trades starts with understanding what made us de-value them in the first place. He points to the removal of shop class from most high schools, which sent a message to students, parents, and teachers that the vocational arts were no longer relevant. The reality, of course, is very different. A specialized skill like welding can secure a stable career with a six-figure income. And, because specialized workers are in demand, learning a trade provides a high level of job security.

Solving the Skills Gap Starts with Appreciation

Appreciation is another key factor that Mike believes is at the heart of changing the perception of the trades. We couldn’t agree more. It’s why we’ve always taken a Worker’s First approach to our technology, and is the motivation behind our Foreman of the Future award. Mike is doing his part to show appreciation to the trades, too. His Facebook show Returning the Favor extends recognition to those making a difference in their community. A recent episode featured Katie Hughes of Portland, Oregon. Katie started a program called Girls Build that introduces girls to power tools and prepares them to go into the construction industry. Mike believes it’s people like Katie and the program she is running that will make the biggest difference, and he does what he can to reward and support them.

While these may feel like small acts against the backdrop of a 70 percent skilled labor shortage, we think they’re a big step forward in closing the skills gap and inspiring a new generation to pursue the trades.