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Filling the Pipeline for Skilled Trades Professions

Closeup of welder welding

Skilled trades professions, a critical part of the nation’s workforce, are in high demand as the economy grows and industries like construction and manufacturing gain strength. However, demand is still chasing supply due to large-scale retirements of Baby Boom and Generation X employees.

More than ever before, today’s skilled trades workers can be selective in their choice of employers, particularly machinists and welders. These workers have the leverage to demand top dollar, impacting recruitment strategies across industries.

Chart showing skilled trade jobs on the rise

Amazon ups the ante

The need to pay market-rate wages has gained new traction with Amazon’s recent announcement that it would offer $15/hour minimum wage for U.S. workers, potentially increasing wages up the chain in the manufacturing industry. For any employers who compete with Amazon for skilled trades talent, it’s nearly certain they will need to raise wages or appeal to employees in other ways.

A recent article in the Washington Post cited Federal Reserve Bank of New York data in noting that workers were “moving to firms with higher productivity and with better opportunities for themselves.” In the absence of an immediate increase in compensation, it seems, workers appear to be focusing on the long-term, counting on raises or more lucrative offers in the future.

Where are you going to get the workers you need?

In the current hiring landscape, employers are rightfully wondering where new workers are going to come from. At Aerotek, we are reinvesting in our core value of relationship-building across the country:

  • Community partnerships

    In Louisville, Kentucky, Practice Lead Neily Horan and her team collaborate closely with a nearby welding school. She initially began working with the school by helping the professors prepare students for the work world by answering questions and conducting mock interviews. Because of her client relationships, she was able to pass along the skills and proficiencies employers were looking for; feedback the school’s instructors added into their curricula.

    When students in each class are nearing completion of their studies, she connects them directly to open entry-level positions that were perfect for the students.


    This long-term strategy serves everyone:

    • Students gain entry into local employers
    • Schools place more graduates into jobs immediately
    • Employers have a consistent pipeline of new workers

    Beginning long-term relationships in Minnesota

    In Saint Paul, Minnesota, Aerotek Account Manager Jim Johnson and his team have also established strong relationships with local and regional technical schools. He found that students were very interested in knowing what to expect after they graduated.

    Visiting the school regularly, Johnson answered student questions on building resumes and how they should dress for job interviews. He maintains the relationships well after graduation, helping students find that crucial first job, and staying in touch for years afterward to support them in finding future jobs as well.

    Skilled trades workers are in such high-demand in his market, he says, that top-performing students often receive offers before they even graduate.

    Skilled trades employers can also look to underrepresented groups, including women and veterans, as a source of new talent.


Despite growth in the past five years, women constitute one of U.S. manufacturing’s largest pools of untapped talent, according to Deloitte. Women totaled about 47 percent of the labor force in 2016, but only 29 percent of the manufacturing workforce.

To attract and retain female workers, Deloitte recommends that manufacturers offer challenging assignments, work life balance and attractive income. The programs that women find most impactful include formal and informal mentorship programs, flexible work practices and ensuring the visibility of programs that have current female leaders.

Graph showing women in manufacturing


Aerotek Director of Business Development Dave Majerowicz, an Air Force veteran, notes that many veterans embody the characteristics that suit the manufacturing workplace:

  • They have a “teamwork” mentality
  • They hold each other accountable
  • They respect others at every level

Around 200,000 service members transition out of the military each year, making them a large and qualified candidate pool for manufacturing employers.


Although skilled trades employers may be facing the toughest recruitment environment in decades, there are effective strategies that will aid in the acquisition and retention of the workers needed. Working with regional and national groups can help them tap into underrepresented labor pools to fill their needs.

Want to learn more about attracting skilled trades talent? Contact Aerotek now.

By Nathan Coin
Aerotek Director of Division Operations