How to Become a Skilled Trades Leader

Two factory workers wearing hard hats and safety glasses review blueprints as one worker points out machinery in the distance

Work hard. Make or maintain essential products. Get paid.

That’s the credo of the skilled worker. If those three simple goals fit into your lifestyle and worldview, you’re in an excellent position to grow into a leadership position.

Baby boomers are retiring from on-site roles such as manager, foreman and supervisor. The number of experts with niche skill sets such as underwater welding or machinists has been steadily shrinking. Trade schools and apprenticeship programs have dealt with declining enrollments for a while now.

It all adds up to a large opportunity for those who develop niche skills. Imagine becoming the most sought-after leader in your profession in your entire town, county or even state. It’s easier the earlier you start.

Target the rarest specialized skills

The search for trained professionals expands to many disciplines such as: metal fabrication, CNC machining, panel wiring, welding, carpentry and maintenance. From a purely “what will get me the most work” perspective, these are a few skills that will be in demand.

The following industries are all on the hunt for skilled trades professionals:

  • Aerospace/Defense
  • Medical/Pharmaceutical
  • Transportation
  • Food Production
  • Technology
  • Construction

This presents an upskilling opportunity for current skilled trades workers. If you’re a mason or a carpenter, see what you can do to specialize and expand your skill set within that craft. Ask around to see what skills are the rarest in your area. Whatever subcontractor delay is most likely to cause slowdowns on the job site is a great place to look.

Be entrepreneurial on the job

It’s possible to get initial and informal training even if you’re not in an apprenticeship or certification program, you’ve just got to look for opportunities. Figure out which skill you want to learn, and see if a skilled tradesperson is willing to talk you through it. Be persistent but respectful. Offer to buy lunch. It never hurts to ask.

In between contracts, you can look into opportunities with top companies that offer more formalized apprenticeship and on-the-job training programs. These can pay big dividends in the future, even if you’re working in a less skilled role or taking a small pay cut in the short term. Companies with training programs tend to be the most successful, and they’re always looking for hungry people willing to learn. 

Tap into trade school resources

If you can go to trade school, look into niche skill-building programs.

Even if a formal trade training program is too much of a commitment for you, trade schools can be a great resource for learning about the job market in your area. Ask around about which programs offer the most specialized and rarefied skills training.

Improving your soft skills is very important. Knowing how to present yourself well at work, understanding employer expectations around professionalism and knowing how to manage workplace relationships are all crucial skills. Trade schools will often partner with companies like Aerotek to improve soft skills, look for schools with similar programs.

If you’ve already completed a formalized training program or certification, reach out to the school or trade org that hosted the program for more information about valuable skill sets. They can point you in the right direction and may help you broaden your network.

Of course, trade schools aren’t the only resource you’ll have available for developing the skill sets that’ll have you working hard, making money, and building cool stuff for years to come.

You can also reach out to a recruiter to help clarify which pathway may be best for your professional preferences. After all, masonry might not be your bag.

To find out the best skilled trades growth opportunity for you, reach out to a recruiter today.