2022 Makers Index: What’s Keeping Young People from the Skilled Trades?

With infrastructure bills approved, we’re still missing the most critical component – trade professionals. 2022 data shows there are an estimated 650,000 open construction jobs.

What is causing this gap in trade skills? Stanley Black & Decker spoke to high schoolers, their parents and professionals to learn more about the perceptions of trade careers. The data revealed key drivers of the skilled trades gap:

  • Misunderstanding of long-term financial security
  • Incorrect knowledge of required skills
  • Lack of exposure to those in trade skills careers
  • Observation of trades as a “male-dominated” industry

The survey results reveal a lack of education about the trades – in fact, less than half of young people have ever had a conversation about skilled trades careers with someone working in the trades. The findings uncover an important opportunity to close the perception gap and, hopefully over time, the trade skills gap as well.

Stanley Black & Decker released the results of its inaugural Makers Index, an in-depth research study examining sentiment about skilled trade careers in the United States, specifically among young people and their parents, with the goal of better understanding some of the underlying causes of the skilled trade labor shortage.

The study surveyed three core audiences1 –

high schoolers aged 14-19, parents of high schoolers and skilled trade workers – and the findings revealed a paradox that underscores the challenges associated with the skilled trade shortage: young people are not seriously considering it. While 85% of young people and 94% of parents think that skilled trade work is a good quality career option in general, less than half (49%) of youth have ever considered a skilled trade career and far fewer (16%) are very likely to consider a skilled trade career.

“The skilled labor shortage is one of the biggest challenges facing the U.S. economy, with 650,000 open jobs in the construction industry alone,” said Stanley Black & Decker CEO Jim Loree. “This problem existed long before the pandemic but has certainly been exacerbated by it. We must address this issue, or we risk even greater labor shortages in the future. The Makers Index study reveals a pathway to solve this challenge: collectively, there is more we can do to make trade careers resonate with young people. We can increase career and technical education (CTE) programs at schools and ensure students appreciate the income potential and lifestyle advantages of skilled trade careers. Businesses, government, civic leaders, educators, school administers, teachers and parents play a critical role in helping to develop and nurture the next generation of skilled trade workers. Working together, we can make progress toward solving the skilled trades shortage.”

A closer look at the data reveals four key drivers of the skilled trades gap:

1. Misunderstanding of long-term financial security

Not surprisingly, 81% of young people and 78% of parents are concerned about the potential cost of education after high school. Perhaps as a result, 87% of young people and 93% of parents say starting a career sooner than it takes to finish a four-year degree is appealing. The skilled trades could offer young people a way forward, but young people are underestimating the starting earning potential for skilled trades. Only 42% expect skilled trade workers to earn at least $50,000, and 19% of young people think the starting pay for a skilled trade worker is less than $20,000. In fact, half of current skilled trade workers with less than 10 years’ experience earned at least $50,000 to start.

Of the younger people surveyed, 43% were much more positive about a skilled trade career when presented with the fact that after five years, a person who attends trade school and then starts working will be $140,000 ahead, on average, compared to a student who enrolls in a four-year college before working.

2. Incorrect knowledge of required skills

There has long been a narrative that young people don’t want to enter the skilled trades because they dislike the idea of working in manual labor, but of the 40% of young people who don’t believe a skilled trade career is a good option, only 12% cited a dislike of manual labor as their primary reason. The main reason cited by those 40% of young people – by a long margin – was poor fit or lack of skills. Broadening an understanding of the skills needed for a skilled trade career can help address this sentiment.

At the same time, most young people have outdated perceptions of the trades, with 23% disagreeing that skilled tradespeople work with cutting edge technology and 18% disagreeing about the work being high in demand. Those beliefs are in contrast with reality: 89% of workers said they work with cutting-edge technology and 94% say that their jobs are high in demand.

3. Lack of exposure to individuals currently in trade profession

Young people lean heavily on people they know – including parents (48%), friends and classmates (44%) as well as teachers (43%) – for help and information related to post-high school planning. But only 42% have had a conversation about skilled trade careers with someone in those fields, while 37% have never had a conversation with anyone about skilled trade careers. It’s no wonder that only 29% feel very well informed about how to start down the path of these careers.

Media and entertainment still play an important role in shaping career choices. More than six in 10 skilled workers with less than 10 years of experience said that media (print, online, social, ads, etc.) was influential and helpful in thinking about career plans, with the internet (32%) and social media (21%) being primary drivers.

4. Continued male-dominated industry

When it comes to skilled trades, there are discrepancies in knowledge, consideration and appeal between genders. When asked about their familiarity with skilled trades, teen boys are more familiar than teen girls (53% vs. 36%), and in thinking about the future, boys are more likely to consider a career in a skilled trade (64% vs. 49%). When asked if a skilled trade career seems like a good option for them, 69% of boys agree, but only 52% of girls agree. This same dynamic exists among parents.

While men and women have the same opinions about whether skilled trades careers are good-quality options, men are more than twice as likely as women to say a skilled trade career is a very appealing option for their child (47% to 22%). To help solve the skilled talent shortage, there needs to be a focus on driving more engagement with women to help them become more aware of these careers and their benefits.

Makers Index Virtual Discussion: Drilling Into the Skilled Trades Shortage

Stanley Black & Decker hosted a virtual panel to dive deep into the Makers Index results, explore the underlying causes behind the skilled trades labor shortage and shed light on opportunities available within the industry.

The discussion was moderated by TV host and car enthusiast, Cristy Lee, a Stanley Black & Decker CRAFTSMAN® Tools Ambassador, and participating panelists included Shannon Lapierre, Chief Communications Officer for Stanley Black & Decker; John Malecki, YouTuber, custom wood and metal worker, and former NFL Lineman; and Abby Leonard, a fourth-year welding apprentice with Poole & Kent.

Empowering Future Makers

In 2021, Stanley Black & Decker launched the Empower Makers Global Impact Challenge, a five-year, up to $25 million commitment to fund vocational skills training and reskilling programs in the construction and manufacturing sectors. The Impact Challenge is expected to skill and reskill up to three million makers over the next five years. The company recently announced the first Makers Grants to 86 nonprofits including high schools, community colleges, construction-focused programs, makerspaces and vocational & trade schools. These recipients will create vital trade programs and help new generations learn how they can help build what matters. The full list of recipients can be found here.

In Addition

The company has established partnerships with organizations who are working to drive awareness and help close the skilled trades gap. These partnerships include:

  • Rock the Trades, a workforce development initiative which provides opportunities for empowerment to those interested in pursuing a career in the trades, either through mentorships or scholarships.
  • Through the company’s partnership with the National Association of Manufacturers and the Manufacturing Institute, Stanley Black & Decker supports efforts such as “Creators Wanted,” a campaign to build the modern manufacturing workforce of tomorrow.

To learn more about Stanley Black & Decker’s Corporate Social Responsibility plan, click here and to learn more about its Environment, Social and Governance strategy, click here.

Drilling into perceptions of trades careers – @StanleyBlckDeckr inaugural Maker’s Index survey is a fascinating reality check. Case in point: only 16% of young people surveyed were likely to pursue the trades, even though 94% of tradespeople say they’re in demand. Learn more –

About the Makers Index

Stanley Black & Decker created two indices as part of this research: the Knowledge & Perception Index and the Advocacy Index. The Knowledge & Perception Index scores factors that influence consideration of a skilled trade career among youths and parents, including familiarity and perceptions, while the Advocacy Index scores factors that influence the likelihood of a skilled trade worker to recommend a skilled trade career to a young person, including job satisfaction.

In this benchmark study, youth scored a 62.4 out of a possible 100 on the Knowledge & Perception Index, while parents scored a noticeably higher 76.0. On their own index, workers scored very high as advocates – at 84.6. Driven by strong satisfaction and positive assessments of their career fields.

Full Makers Index findings and results can be found here.

Survey Methodology
KRC designed and fielded an online survey from August 30 and September 13, 2021. Targeting three audiences: Youth (N=801), Parents (N=200), and Skilled Trade Workers (N=502)

About Stanley Black & Decker
Headquartered in the USA, Stanley Black & Decker (NYSE: SWK) is the world’s largest tool company. Operating nearly 50 manufacturing facilities across America and more than 100 worldwide. Guided by its purpose – for those who make the world. The company’s more than 60,000 diverse and high-performing employees produce innovative, award-winning power tools, hand tools, storage, digital tool solutions, lifestyle products, outdoor products, engineered fasteners and other industrial equipment to support the world’s makers, creators, tradespeople and builders.  Iconic brands include DEWALT®, BLACK+DECKER®, CRAFTSMAN®, STANLEY®, CUB CADET®, HUSTLER® and TROY-BILT®. Recognized for its leadership in environmental, social and governance (ESG), Stanley Black & Decker strives to be a force for good in support of its communities, employees, customers and other stakeholders. To learn more visit: www.stanleyblackanddecker.com.

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