Trump has stood out for his no holds barred, politically incorrect style and it will be interesting to see how long he lasts before finally saying enough to offend literally everyone. Love him or hate him, one of his comments of late around the topic of immigration is correct; but not for the reason he thinks. Mr. Trump, like many current candidates, has said we need to close our southern border to illegal immigrants. Trump’s bombastic solution is to “build a great wall and make the Mexicans pay for it”.
As an advocate for the construction industry, I am in favor of most all building projects though I’m not sure how he or anyone will get the Mexican government to pay for it. Trump is correct on involving the Mexicans, because given the massive skilled labor shortage in the United Sates construction industry; it is unlikely we alone could build the project without their help.
The Construction Users Roundtable (CURT) is an organization that tracks upcoming construction projects and then analyzes the availability of skilled labor for the purposes of projecting shortages which lead to delays for owners. CURT is currently projecting a 2 million construction worker shortage in upcoming years that will get worse as even more retire. Look at the person who comes to your home for repairs – they are generally not young. The age of the AVERAGE carpenter in this country is 55, HVAC technician is 56 meaning 50% of all workers are older than that age. Neither Trump or any of the candidates are paying attention to this; nor do they understand the more frightening reality that the pipeline of future construction workers is empty, if not completely broken.
Our country used to embrace the skilled trades and there were numerous pipelines of talent. We had middle school shop classes which fed into strong vocational education. Those classes are mostly gone and when we find a child interested in construction, we push them away and into college engineering, completely forgetting the strong math and science based construction industry. We once had strong rural communities and family farms which produced hard working young people interested in the trades; they have been replaced by automated corporate farms with few workers.
We were once a nation proud of its generations of craftsmen. Grandpa was a plumber, so was dad, so was son. 30 years ago we broke that when we started telling all of our children that the only path to success in this nation was to go to college rather than out to work with them. Now we have children saddled with debt, facing unemployment with no skills, useless college degrees and no idea that they are genetically predisposed to success in the construction trades.
People skilled in the construction trades never face long term unemployment and their skills transfer easily into other industries such as manufacturing. Most tradesmen are entrepreneurs who start companies and get the satisfaction of setting their own hours and wages. It is time we again became proud to say our sons and daughters are skilled trades workers. Perhaps one of these candidates will make that happen.
Written by, John Morris
Published in the Dayton Daily News, A7
Tuesday, August 11, 2015