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Trades, Tech, and Talent

For the past decade, trades and manufacturing have been struggling with a crippling labor shortage. The secret to recruiting new, young workers to these stigmatized industries has proven elusive as the threat of Boomer retirement remains strong, and millions of jobs are going unfilled. Millennials and Gen Z simply aren’t interested in these lines of work, be it because of the negative stereotypes, the societal push for four-year college, or a combination of culprits. But that doesn’t mean it’s all a lost cause. There are a number of transformations to be made to existing recruiting tactics to reach the next generation of workers, and as it turns out, trades and manufacturing have just the secret weapon; they have the technology.

Here’s the understatement of the year: modern technology is important to Gen Z. They expect the organizations they work for to provide it and treat it as a basic necessity for productivity and innovation. It’s not a perk, it’s an expectation. According to a study by Dell, 91% of Gen Z say the technology offered by an employer would be a factor in choosing among similar job offers. Further, 80% want to work with cutting-edge technology in their future careers. And don’t get these expectations confused with Millennials’. Gen Z has a distinct perspective on technology because of the different experiences they had growing up. Millennials came of age when the tech upgrade cycle was in full swing, so they remember dial-up and VCRs, but everything was constantly evolving. They learned to expect frequent change in the name of improvement. For Gen Z, on the other hand, changes in technology started to plateau and grow more hardware-centric. Touchscreens, AI, Wi-Fi, and other smart technologies are ubiquitous now, and employers need to show it if they want any hope of recruiting and retaining the next slew of workers.

That being said, trades and manufacturing don’t need much convincing. Companies in these industries have been investing in modern tech. Whether it’s specialized CNC machines, mechatronics, or even virtual reality, trades and manufacturing jobs are putting modern technology to the test on a daily basis. Unfortunately, it’s not something to grace social media, news headlines, or casual career path conversations, so not everyone knows about it.

Considering the current labor shortage and how much of an appeal technology can have with the next generation, recruiters should incorporate its role into more of their recruiting conversations and efforts. Advertise how these really cool tools affect day-to-day tasks and improve the employee experience. Being more open about this nature of the work would be a compelling step towards revamping recruiting strategies to meet Gen Z where they’re at. Particularly given the existing stigmas around these industries. Finding more opportunities to form intentional connections with the next generation, rather than sticking with the “tried and true” that may no longer be true, is crucial for creating a healthier pipeline of workers.

But there’s more that needs to change about trades and manufacturing recruiting strategies—more than what can be covered in a single blog. That’s why we started the Trades Hub, a digital platform for connecting the next generation with careers in the trades. With it, we help students and employers maneuver past negative stereotypes to have real conversations about these industries and the careers they harbor. Not only are we using technology to communicate with Gen Z, but we also use day-in-the-life videos to showcase the great and varied opportunities available—including how tech-heavy some jobs can be. And to take it a step further, we’re meeting them at a point in their lives when they’re starting to make career path decisions: high school.

So join us in our quest to mend the trades labor shortage. Spread excitement for all that these fulfilling careers have to offer, dispel negative stereotypes, and rethink recruiting tactics to better meet the interests of today’s young workers. Because applying a generational lens to this national dilemma will make a real difference in how we connect the next generation with open jobs.