ThinkstockPhotos 491218972By Brian Binke

The United States is in need of a labor workforce that will bring back a strong middle-class. Collaborations between government and business can help create these opportunities. Hundreds of thousands of these skilled-trade jobs are already in demand and are going unfilled. These $20 to $45 an hour jobs are left unfilled because we don’t have the skilled workers prepared for the positions. Filling these positions will benefit millions of Americans in low-paying jobs and lift many out of poverty. Here are some ways that we can build a strong skilled labor force.  

Middle School Classes

Shop class can be a great opportunity to introduce young people to working with their hands. When I was in school, it was mandatory to take two years of shop class. I remember two particular projects in my shop class. The assignments were to make a wooden fish and a trivet. The fish started out as a 2×4. We were given long metal stripping, grout, and a bunch of small tiles to make the trivet. We had access to all kinds of machines to cut, grind, bend, sand and paint. There were students who ended up with a fish that looked better than ones you may see at an art fair. I ended up with a fish that looked more like a deformed dog. And the trivet wasn’t level enough to keep a pot from falling off! Today, there are many school districts that do not even offer these types of classes.

Thankfully there are individuals who love to use their hands and become highly skilled at a trade. For many, this love of working with their hands begins in middle school shop class.

High School Vocational Programs

Getting young people thinking about skilled trades as a career in high school is a smart move that can pay off in the long term. High schools need to have vocational programs in place to teach hands-on skills such as carpentry, electrical and plumbing. There’s also a tremendous shortage of high-paying skilled trade positions in manufacturing. These programs can open a world of opportunity to young people who may not be interested in or have the skill set for college. They enjoy using their hands, and want to make a difference in the world while making a good living.

Community College Programs

Many community colleges and technical schools are great resources for students of all ages and backgrounds to study and learn new skills. They have programs that feed into the workforce in their geographic area, serving industries that need a skilled workforce in areas such as welding, machining, carpentry and electrical. Encouraging young people to consider a career using their physical skills is a great way to begin to create a much-needed workforce to rebuild America.


Certain jobs cannot be outsourced. New bridges, roads, schools and hospitals need to be built. They are vital to the growth and prosperity of this country. Skilled trade jobs are in demand and need to be filled by a labor workforce. Programs such as middle school shop classes, high school vocational programs, and community college certificates and degrees in skilled trades will help make this happen. Strong collaborative efforts between government and industry are needed to help rebuild the country and create a growing middle class again.

Brian Binke is the founder and CEO of The Birmingham Group (TBG). TBG is a globally recognized executive search and consulting firm, specializing in the construction arena. Over the past 22 years, he has established himself as one of construction recruiting’s most respected leaders. He has won numerous awards for his industry innovation and was recognized as the No. 1 revenue producing manager for the largest recruitment network of More than 800 independent firms worldwide. You can reach him directly at


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