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Jobs in the Trades are Plentiful


Northeastern Pennsylvania - Pat O’Neil considers himself a jobs pipeline for students graduating from Johnson College in Scranton to his company’s payroll almost right after graduation.



“We have had a few students who come from that program and they become quite successful,” said O’Neil, a senior project manager with Johnson Controls, who has students come directly into the workforce. The international company with offices in Pennsylvania builds automation systems as well as HVAC systems for manufacturing and production facilities.


O’Neil, who also teaches in the trades program at Johnson College part-time, said classes are full and students are able to quickly find work when they graduate.


The reason? Those who have jobs skills in the ‘trades’ or ‘dirty jobs,’ so-to-speak, are in high demand no matter the location or economic conditions – even during a pandemic, which has seen an economy shed jobs like crazy.


The number of skilled trade jobs in the United States that are currently available is far outpacing the number of jobs available, according to analysis complied by PeopleReady, an industrial staffing agency. The agency found there’s simply a staffing shortage of people in the ‘skilled trades’ – people like plumbers, HVAC, electricians, carpenters and roofers.


And that’s a short list.


“The skilled trades are in dire need of workers right now, with a particularly high demand for apprentice-level and skilled labor positions. These are steady, well-paying jobs that hold a bright future, even in an unpredictable economic climate,” said Jill Quinn, executive leader of PeopleReady Skilled Trades. “For the millions of Americans who are struggling in their job hunt right now, our message is simple: Consider a career in the skilled trades.”


Dana Healey, career services manager for Johnson College, said as quickly as students leave the program, a job is almost certain.


“Every day, a different employer will call me to say they have openings,” she said. “Every day. The demand is that high.”


She said demand is high because graduates are trained in industries that are essential.


“Refrigeration, plumbing, electrical. It’s all there regardless of the industry,” she said. “And during a pandemic, hospitals are using life-saving equipment and our graduates are fixing that equipment when it breaks. We are necessary in many facets of life.”


Healey said their recent career fairs are typically packed with employers looking for graduates. A March career fair featured more than 60 employers. She said Johnson College has a high placement rate for just about all of its programs. She said in the medical trades, there’s almost 100% placement.


“It’s successful because it’s necessary,” she said. “It’s kinesthetic learning. If you like to work with your hands, it’s for you. And it’s lucrative everywhere. There’s nowhere where you can’t get a job. When the world shut down for a pandemic, our graduates were still working. When everyone was working from home, our graduates were working in manufacturing to make sure the trucks were running to deliver the toilet paper.”


Dr. Bradley Webb, dean of engineering technologies at Penn College of Technology, said across the college, there’s a 98% placement rate because of the demand.


“They are scooped up pretty quick,” he said. “If they want to find a job, there’s likely one that will be there for him.”

Dr. Webb said there’s always been a ‘strong demand’ from the industry for skilled trades.


“We have difficulty getting 17 and 18-year-olds in the door to consider these careers,” he said. “Many people in the public don’t view the trades as a college degree. But that’s starting to change.”


While there are certificate and associate degree programs, students can get a bachelor’s degree in automation engineering technology or construction management.


“Diesel technology is a great example. On average, there’s 12 computers on a big rig and so the technician not only has to be a mechanic, but also must be an IT troubleshooter. There’s a lot of advanced technical skills that are needed and most people don’t see that,” he said.


Dr. Webb said many parents don’t see ‘blue-collar’ jobs like ‘white-collar’ jobs even though some blue-collar jobs can pay more.


He said the demand will only increase.


“Covid-19 has only shown where these jobs are,” he said. “The term ‘essential workers’ is getting kind of old now, but when we closed last March, a large percentage of our students went to work full-time. We still needed plumbers, HVAC technicians and electricians. None of that stuff stops. And that’s going to continue.”

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