Photo of Bridging the Trades Gap

Bridging the Trades Gap

A talent shortage has been incubating in the trades and manufacturing industry for the past decade, steadily burgeoning into a larger, more detrimental obstacle for companies to overcome. Experts and leaders aplenty have tried to get to the bottom of this issue, yet few approach it with a generational lens. Recruiting, retention, and engagement tactics that worked for Gen X and Boomer workers won’t appeal to other generations. Millennials have drastically different expectations and preferences for the workplace, and the trades gap can’t improve without acting on them. Here are some broad-stroke ideas for how to get more fresh-faced workers in your industry.



As easy as it would be if every generation were attracted to and motivated by the same things, that isn’t the case. Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute have consistently found across surveys (2011 and 2015) that manufacturers depend on outdated approaches for recruiting. Rather than get lost in the noise with the same strategies you’ve always used, consider Millennials’ preferences for work and how your company matches them. Many young workers don’t know you have variety in daily work, opportunities to grow, financial stability, or chances to literally build the community. Highlight these desirable features in job postings and other recruiting efforts! Striking that great first impression with Millennials will be a total game changer in getting the right people in your door.



Sometimes you can get them in the door, but you can’t get them to stay. Many industries and organizations struggle to capture the hearts of young new hires because they’re recycling Boomer or Xer retention tactics. Don’t make this mistake. Reassess feedback structure and opportunities for on-the-job learning, and make sure they align with younger generations’ needs without alienating current employees. While developing a culture of continuous learning and improvement is important across industries, it is especially so for you. For trades and manufacturing, it means funneling talent through internships and apprenticeships, then continuing to focus on employee development beyond that. Taking young employees preferences into consideration while balancing seasoned workers’ preferences is a tricky task that few have put forth the effort to accomplish, but those who have are undoubtedly reaping the rewards.



You’ve recruited and retained your very own Millennial. Congratulations! Now, how do you keep them productive and motivated? At risk of sounding like a broken record, don’t assume what fired up previous generations will also click for younger ones. Take the concepts you advertised for Millennials in your job postings and truly infuse them into your work culture—make them a priority. Keep employees passionate and engaged by regularly contributing to and improving the greater community. Prove that your work thrives on making an impact so young employees feel that sense of purpose that wakes them up every day. Give your workers a reason to be connected and engaged in their work.


Solving the skilled trades’ conundrum of hiring and retaining engaged employees will take more than skimming a simple article, but instilling generational curiosity and wisdom in trades leaders is essential to understanding the next batch of employees and moving forward.