As a business all about streamlining business management, there’s a startling trend that has swept across North America, which becomes more visible as each new generation prepares to join the labor workforce.

Research demonstrates people are leaving the blue-collar industries, whether it be from retirement or vocational shift, and fewer people are coming in to fill those gaps.

The result is a growing labor shortage across many of North America’s trade factions. For example, it was reported in early 2017 that the National Electrical Contractors Association recorded 10,000 electricians retire, to have only 7,000 of those empty positions filled by fresh faces.

And it’s happening across a number of workforces. There are simply not enough hands to answer the growing need for vital trades and services. As the trend in the increase of job openings and a decrease of new laborers to fill them continues, the United States (US) awaits the inevitable fallout – higher costs, longer waiting lists for services and a lower standard of work as laborers are rushed off their feet.

College-or-bust mentality

North America’s labor shortage has been on the radar since the early 2000’s, fueled by a number of social, educational and economic factors that have continued to fuel the issue. So much so products like simPRO’s job management software offer a solution.

Much of what limits the trade workforce is a shift in generational ideologies. It seems almost like a memory when people looking for work would come out the other side with a lunch pale and practical skills in carpentry, construction, mechanics or electrical maintenance. Nowadays a shift has occurred in what young people and other job searchers consider to be reputable career paths that will provide a rewarding life. For many, going to college is the preference. Company review website Angie’s List wrote in early 2017 that there was mounting social pressure in modern times for young people to go to college and use their academic qualifications to earn a high-paying and prestigious job, rather than learn a trade which is thought of as less reputable. To back this up, a CEO of a national trade association said the message today was that you need to have a college degree or you’re a lesser individual, with the funding model in public schools supporting a “college-or-bust” mentality.

Blue-collar industry

So, what happens when young people are convinced that there is no future in becoming a skilled tradesperson? You’re left with whoever’s still in the business. In 2013, Forbes reported that 53% of skilled-trade workers in the US were 45 years and older and 18.6% were between the ages of 55 and 64. Even today, years on from those findings, the latest data from North America’s Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed the median age for electricians, builders, and other skilled tradespeople ranges from 42 to 48. Career Profiles reported that over 60% of electricians, electrical repairers, and machine maintenance workers were over the age of 45, with the same age representing 59% of welders and machinery mechanics.

This is not to say, however, that North America’s labor workforce is made up entirely of men and women who are thinking about retiring in the next decade or so. There are of course still fresh, young individuals who are interested in getting their hands dirty. However, it is estimated that for every one new tradesperson who enters the workforce, four or five are on their way out, headed for retirement. And with emerging generations being taught to preference a college education, those spaces are getting harder to fill.

This is where part of the paradox lies. Blue-collar industries need younger workers. Younger workers have grown up using technology every day of their lives. The blue-collar industry, according to research conducted by McKinsey & Company in 2017, is among the least digitized in North America. So how do we attract younger talent into blue-collar industries when technology is nowhere to be seen?

The recession has also played a part in North America’s labor shortage, hitting the pockets of blue-collar businesses everywhere from 2007 until 2009, with many businesses forced to lay off workers and struggling to build themselves back up ever since. CBS News reported in 2017 that during the recession in 2008, more than 1.5 million residential construction workers left the industry. Other reports said 2 million were laid off in the throes of the recession, and many chose to take their skills to other industries or simply retire rather than wait around for the economic ground to stop shaking beneath their feet.

So what is the answer to the growing US labor shortage?

Work smarter, not harder

While it is a stretch to say the labor recruitment pool is bare, it is clear that hiring large groups of able-bodied and skilled individuals is no longer a simple task. And what is there left to do when there is work to be done and not enough people to do it?

It’s time to take a different approach to ensure that businesses don’t fail because of factors out of their control. That’s where simPRO comes in. With state-of-the-art, end-to-end, scheduling and business management software, businesses can utilize simPRO to help increase billable hours, which will lead to more streamlined processes and potential increases in revenue.

Ultimately, you can plan to address the labor shortage by getting the most out of your current workforce.

However, it’s one thing to have a product that helps businesses run more streamlined outfits. It’s another to understand why job management software, like simPRO’s, is becoming more vital to the workforce.

Utilize job management solutions

With so many factors contributing to the inescapable truth surrounding North America’s labor workforce, it’s become clear that businesses cannot simply rest on their laurels before the economy and ideologies change. We can still continue to sway people over to industries that help build North America and inspire new waves of skilled tradespeople, but in the meantime, businesses need to work with what they have.

simPRO’s cloud-based job management software allows users to efficiently trim the fat in any business schedule or process, giving a clear insight into who has been most productive and where the benefits are, ensuring each job creates the maximum potential for billable hours.

With the right tools and mindset, businesses can function in a world where labor shortage doesn’t inherently mean downfall - isn’t that something we should build?