Employers in trade industries say it’s getting harder to fill jobs

CHARLOTTE — An empty pipeline of new workers has left some employers in trade industries scraping together as many experienced contractors as they can find to backfill a lack of young employees.

Channel 9′s Evan Donovan found out how one Charlotte company is fighting that trend.

After several jobs in her early 20s, Erica Cline went back to school to get a degree in public health from UNC Charlotte. But she didn’t like her career options -- that was, until she heard an ad on the radio.

“And it said, ‘the world needs more female technicians.’ And it really spoke to me saying you could move your family to a better neighborhood, you can afford to do this, you can be proud of what you do, yada yada yada,” Cline said. “And at the time, I was 30 years old and living in my mom’s basement.”

In its most recent annual survey, construction association AGC found more than 90% of construction firms have open positions and are having trouble filling them.

NPR cited a study from recruiting firm Handshake, which found applications to technical jobs dropped by nearly 50% last year compared to 2020.

In Charlotte, HVAC and plumbing firm Morris-Jenkins is trying to close that gap with its own training facility on site.

“In essence, we’ve built two houses inside here to trade our plumbing technicians, trainees,” Mike Simons said.

The training is both hands-on and classroom-based. It’s already paid for and trainees are paid while they go through it.

“Plumbing work, welding work, HVAC work -- you just don’t have people getting into that at a young age,” Simons said. “And everybody that’s good experienced, they’re retiring. So there is a major gap and that’s what we’ve had to do to try to fill that gap.”

Five years after hearing that radio ad, Cline is now a trainer in the company’s plumbing operation and just returned from a three-month maternity leave with her second child.

Another plus for the trade industry jobs is that they’re often recession-proof. It doesn’t matter where you’re cutting corners, if your air-conditioning doesn’t work in mid-summer, you’re probably spending your money there.

The trades may even be future-proof as well -- a recent report shows artificial intelligence is likely to replace more white collar jobs than blue collar.

(WATCH BELOW: Bank of London to expand tech hub in Charlotte, creating 350 jobs)

Evan Donovan

Evan Donovan, wsoctv.com

Evan is an anchor and reporter for Channel 9.