Blue Professionals

The next frontier for recruiters?

As the Baby Boomer generation continues to exit the workforce, the need for talent in "the trades" or what has been historically referred to as “Blue Collar” jobs, is increasing. The percentage of firms currently struggling to fill these important skilled trade jobs is a staggering 62% and growing.

In a March 2013 article, Forbes reported that in 2012 53% of the skilled-trade workers in the US were over the age of 45 and 18.6% were between 55 & 64. That means that in less than 5 years, nearly one-fifth of our skilled trades workforce will be retired. In a decade, nearly half. And, due to the physical demand on the body of doing these jobs, they often must retire. Most secondary education programs over stress the “importance” of college as the path to success and earnings tied to abuses of private colleges many young people find themselves floundering. Many states and trade associations are now struggling to come up with training and certification programs that will reverse the current gap.

For the most part, Search and Placement firms didn’t work in these areas for a few reasons, not the least of which was that companies weren’t willing to pay a fee for someone to find the people. But, due to the demand to fill those positions requiring those hard to find skills, over the last 24 months that situation has changed dramatically. As society begins to change its focus from “get a degree” to “get a skill, trade, or degree depending on your individual talents and interests”, this creates a huge, opportunity for placement firms that are willing to change with the times.

Stephen Sweeney, Managing Director of SearchPath Automotive Retail Recruiting (SARR), was one of the first to see and capitalize on this emerging niche. His target, automotive technicians for dealerships. His segment has grown to include other back-office staff including Service Managers, F&I Managers, and General Managers both at dealerships as well as fleet owners like rental car companies.

Jan Plessner, Managing Partner of Action Recruiting – A SearchPath Affiliate has seen similar trends in her niche of Power Sports (motorcycles, jet ski, and snowmobile) dealerships and manufacturers. Jan has been invited as a guest speaker at the annual industry showcase, the AIM Expo, talking to both the industry leaders on talent acquisition and retention as well as to potential candidates about career choices and management.

The trend is not just with dealer support. Jeff Harrison Managing Director of SearchPath of Mid-Michigan whose business is focused on manufacturing, has seen a rise in CNC programmers, welders, painters and other critical skilled manufacturing positions. Small and medium manufacturing firms need a constant influx of talent to remain competitive. The Virginia Manufacturers Association projects that the positions with highest demand near term are electrical and electronics engineering technicians. Right behind them are welding, soldering and brazing machine setters. All of these positions are projected to have over 50% of the current workforce to be retiring in the next 10 years.

Like those creative placement professionals named above, recruiters have to consider gearing an aspect of their businesses around the industries and skill sets that are the highest in demand regardless where the “classic” models have been.