Training the Next Generation of Skilled Workers

Taking care of one home is hard. Managing roughly 81,000 houses is considerably more difficult. That is why Invitation Homes has long relied on an army of skilled workers to help us attend to a wide range of maintenance projects, from fixing leaky sinks to replacing entire heating and air-conditioning systems. The challenge: a growing shortage of workers with the skills necessary to do these critical jobs.

This is not a new trend. The number of skilled trades workers – people with specialized skills obtained through education or training – has been declining in the United States for years. By 2022, the number of skilled trades jobs is projected to exceed the number of adequately trained workers by 3.4 million, representing a significant number of quality jobs that will go unfilled due to a perceived lack of value and inadequate entryways. As more and more Baby Boomers retire, fewer younger workers are gaining the skills necessary to replace them, even though many of these jobs promise good salaries and plenty of demand.

Economists have been tracking this shortage of skilled workers for years. Businesses looking to hire skilled tradespeople regularly report shortfalls in eligible applicants, according to monthly surveys by the Federal Reserve. One staffing firm recently reported the most in-demand skilled trade jobs regularly remain unfilled for a month or more – longer than most other positions.

The number of openings has exploded. Job postings for electrician helpers increased by 15 percent between February and March. Openings for plumbers’ apprentices jumped 24 percent, and the number of job openings for roofer apprentices shot up 50 percent. Most of these jobs were open for nearly a month. Sometimes longer.

These are generally good jobs that pay well and offer solid job security. Plumbers and electricians, for example, make roughly $61,000 a year, on average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Both are higher than the average annual income of all U.S. workers. And some of these skilled workers can earn far more in high-demand markets. Those wages will continue to rise as demand for this work increases and the number of people trained for these jobs continues to decline. These jobs also provide pathways to economic advancement as independent professionals, entrepreneurs, and small business owners.

Because most of these jobs require specialized training, often intensive training, it will take time to address this shortfall. That is why we need to encourage people to pursue these professions and debunk some of the misperceptions about this work – and the people who do it. For some reason, myths about these professions persist – the work isn’t important, these jobs don’t pay well, or these tasks will soon be performed by a machine. In reality, skilled trades can’t be outsourced and can’t be automated. We all rely on the entrepreneurial skills and expertise of skilled trade workers. Filling these jobs is critical, otherwise our country wouldn’t have essential infrastructure we all need.

At Invitation Homes, we depend on people to perform these jobs, and we only see the demand increasing. This skilled workforce is critical to our business and addressing our residents’ needs. That is why we are prepared to do everything in our power as a company to promote these professions and help encourage younger workers to acquire the skills necessary to do these jobs. Our company would not exist without these workers, and we are invested in training the next generation.

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