New Coalition Aims to Close the Skilled Trades Gap

American Welding Society (AWS) hosted 17 industry organizations for the first Skilled Trades Coalition meeting on December 5, 2018. Pictured at AWS Headquarters in Miami, Fla., are (from left) Scott Lynch, ABMA; Ken Rigmaiden, IUPAT; Matt Miller, AWS; Scott Cargill, ASNT; Darrell L. Roberts, Helmets to Hardhats; Charlie Carter, AISC; Edward A. Abbott, Ironworkers International; John Ospina, GAWDA; Arnold Bereson, ASNT; Michael Harris, ITI; Raquel Tamez, SHPE; Matthew E. Croson, AGMA; Jeannine Kunz, Tooling U-SME; David W. Viola, IAPMO Group; Sheila LaMothe, CCAI; Edward S. Youdell, FMA International; Tom Underhill, SEAA; and Robert H. Chalker, NACE International.

Skilled trade workers are difficult to find and this shortage is expected to continue rising. By 2025 an estimated two million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled. In a recent effort to work towards solving this problem, the Skilled Trades Coalition (STC) was formed.

The STC met for the first time on December 5, 2018, at the American Welding Society (AWS) World Headquarters in Miami. The mission of the STC is to bring together a group of thought leaders who are shaping the future of work in the respective trade disciplines to explore awareness, recruitment, training and retention of skilled trade workers to close the skilled trades gap.

"Over the last several years of my career, I have been hearing a common theme from multiple industries, which is the growing deficit in access to qualified skilled workers," said AWS executive director and CEO Matt Miller. "We began reaching out to our counterparts at other technical associations and discovered that the challenge we’re having with attracting workers to welding is mirrored in many other trades, so we put together a charter to see if we could engage other groups to elevate the conversation around the skilled trades. Our original goal was to bring together five organizations, but the interest was so large that we quickly found we had 17 willing partners."

During this meeting of the STC, participants identified common challenges and discussed best practices, while collaborating on key topics and ways to overcome the skilled trade shortage. Through these efforts, they developed strategies on attracting workforce talent and influencing public perceptions and laid out a plan for next steps and future actions. The next in-person meeting is set to take place this September at AISC's headquarters in Chicago.

The 17 partners in the Skilled Trades Coalition include:

  • American Boiler Manufacturers Association
  • American Gear Manufacturers Association
  • American Institute of Steel Construction
  • American Society for Nondestructive Testing
  • American Welding Society
  • Chemical Coaters Association International
  • Helmets to Hardhats
  • Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, International
  • Gases and Welding Distributors Association
  • International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials
  • Iron Workers (International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers)
  • International Training Institute
  • International Union of Painters and Allied Trades
  • NACE International
  • Steel Erectors Association of America
  • Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers
  • Society of Manufacturing Engineers

The full article will be available from the American Welding Society in their March 2019 issue of Welding Journal.