Skilled trades industry faces labor shortage

MILTON, Wis. (WMTV) - Across Southern Wisconsin, the skilled trades industry is working to recruit more employees to the workforce.

Gary Burns, the director for the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Council of Wisconsin, says the recession a few years ago caused many people to get out of the industry.

“We’re trying to grow the industry back and provide good young talented and skilled people for our contractors,” Burns said.

He expects in brick laying to see a loss of 30% of the workforce due to an older generation retiring.

“Within the next five years, they’re going to be gone,” said Burns of the baby boomers.

Spencer Statz, a representative with the plumbers union, says retirement is often talked about.

“We always here about the baby boomers exiting the workforce and so as new generations come up we’re just here to fill that gap,” Statz said.

Another issue the industry is seeing younger men and women choosing a four year college instead of a two year technical program or apprenticeship.

“While four year college is great for a lot of kids, we have a lot of students that are looking at two year programs or certification programs,” said Jeremy Bilhorn, the principal of Milton High School.

Milton High School hosted a job trade fair on Thursday to help introduce its students to the many different career options available in the skilled trades industry.

“This is a way for us to help students and show them those options and maybe even help fill those needs in the workforce,” Bilhorn said.

Amy Kenyon, the Milton school district school-to-career coordinator, believes this path eliminates college debt.

“We want to let them know that there are other valid opportunities out there like the trades where you can make a career out of it and there will be less college debt,” Kenyon said.

Burns believes apprenticeship allows younger students to make a living much faster.

“You come into an apprenticeship and it’s paid for,” Burns said. “You come in as you go to trade school and there’s no debt to you at all.”

Milton high school administrators say around 1,000 students attended the job fair, including the 8th graders.