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It’s no joke: Shortage of plumbers could clog up economy

By June 5, 2024No Comments

It’s no secret that the U.S. and New Jersey are facing a skilled labor shortage, with longtime trade workers on the brink of retirement and a significant deficiency of new workers in the pipeline. In fact, the construction industry is looking to recruit half a million workers this year to balance supply and demand, according to recent report by Associated Builders and Contractors.

One skilled trade is in particularly high demand — plumbers.

According to an analysis by John Dunham & Associates, the U.S. is expected to be 550,000 short by 2027, and that shortage cost our overall economy a whopping $33 billion in 2022.

The plumbing trade plays an essential role in our economy and is critical for infrastructure construction projects. A plumbing deficit drives up costs for homeowners and businesses, who end up paying more for those services. But it also has the bigger economic impact of delaying construction and major public works projects, as well as deterring critical water efficiency and infrastructure projects.

Of course, the answer to the shortage of plumbers is to train a younger generation of workers to replace the retiring baby boomer generation. But, that’s not a quick fix. We need to begin recruitment for trade work even earlier than high school, starting in middle school. The perception and messaging that trade work is somehow “less important” than other occupations needs to change. Clearly, college isn’t for everyone, and the trades provide an opportunity for a meaningful, well-paying career without the heavy price tag and debt of a four-year degree.

Trade work provides high salaries, fulfilling careers and the opportunity to run one’s own business, but that message isn’t always being communicated to our young people. That’s why the Associated Builders and Contractors of New Jersey has made it one of our core missions to promote our Apprenticeship Training program, which we launched three years ago.

ABC-NJ saw the critical need to educate more skilled trade workers that was not being met in New Jersey, so we created our own U.S. Department of Labor-certified training program. ABC-NJ’s apprenticeship program provides paid, on-the-job training and classroom-based theoretical education in many skilled craft trades, including plumbing.

Working alongside local schools and businesses, we provide pre-apprenticeship construction readiness training and can help prospective apprentices get hired with one of more than 1,300 of our member companies. Our apprentices earn while they learn, pursuing an education while working full-time on the path to a successful lifetime career.

Apprentices benefit from on-the-job learning from an experienced mentor, combined with education courses to support work-based learning. Registered with the U.S. DOL, all programs comply with strict federal and state requirements for formal apprenticeship and prevailing wage work. Upon successful completion, craft workers are eligible to be recognized at the journey level in their trade and receive a certificate of completion.

To ensure the strength of our current and future labor market, we need to have more conversations with our middle and high school students to show them the different ways to enter this promising field of trade work.

For more information about ABC-NJ’s apprenticeship training, click here.