Promoting the Benefits of a Skilled Trades Career

National Skilled Trades Day is an opportunity to increase awareness about the labor shortage that industries like plumbing and drain cleaning continue to contend with

Promoting the Benefits of a Skilled Trades Career

Alan Soukup, president of bluefrog Plumbing + Drain of North Dallas

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There is a huge dilemma facing businesses involved in plumbing and drain cleaning and other skilled trades areas — there are more job openings than there are people to fill them. With many workers in skilled trades nearing retirement age and increasingly fewer graduating high schoolers showing an interest in skilled trades jobs, a main source of the problem is clear.

That’s why in 2019, City Machine Technologies of Youngstown, Ohio, decided to establish National Skilled Trades Day — observed on the first Wednesday in May — to celebrate skilled trades workers and increase awareness about the benefits of such jobs. 

To mark 2021’s National Skilled Trades Day, Plumber magazine received some insight from Alan Soukup, president of bluefrog Plumbing + Drain of North Dallas.  

Plumber: Describe how you found your way into the industry.

Soukup: I got started in the trades not that long ago. I have been in service fields my entire life and I wanted to have my own business, so I looked around and plumbing was one of the franchises that looked very attractive.

Plumber: What are the ways that a skilled trades job provides opportunities for career growth?

Soukup: Learning a skilled trade is an opportunity for a fulfilling career, not just a job. Skilled trades can offer a career path going from learning the trade, doing the trade and then eventually moving into a leadership position.

Plumber: What do you see happening in the future? Will this labor shortage improve?

Soukup: The future looks very challenging with the available workforce declining and the work increasing. It is certainly a national issue with an average age of an HVAC and plumbing official around 56, so more people are retiring out of the industry versus coming in, which has created a shortage. In general, people are working longer and harder and spending more time in their homes. Our infrastructure and homes are getting older, and it is all leading to a greater demand for the industry. Without a dedicated effort to educate people on the career opportunity of learning a skilled trade, we will not attract new people to the industry. 

Plumber: What misconceptions do you think exist that has hurt interest in skilled trades jobs?

Soukup: Very little of what is done in plumbing and HVAC is dirty and nasty. Most of it is very technical and skilled and we need to educate people to get rid of that stigma. 

Plumber: What do you think are the best ways to reach young people and promote skilled trades as viable career options? What are specific things that companies can do to help themselves as well as the industry as a whole with the effort?

Soukup: We need to spend time educating young people about what a great opportunity the trades are. One way to do that is for business owners to go into high schools and educate students that skilled trades is a different path than the typical four-year college but can also provide a rewarding career and financial stability. We need to show them you can be productive in the workforce and make a nice living. On a national level, uniform licensing across states would make it easier for those in the trades to move around without having to get re-certified. 


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