ILLINOIS NEWS NETWORK
The Illinois Department of Employment Security says the skilled trades are a perfect avenue for at-risk youth to get a good-paying job instead of going into a life of crime.
At more than 12 percent, black unemployment in Illinois is among the highest in the country and could lead to high crime rates. IDES Business Services Manager Tory Davis said a trades jobs fair in Springfield may have the answer.
“The trades would definitely be beneficial to a number of kids, not only African Americans, but to all kids,” Davis said. “So the answer is to talk to those kids when they’re young about the various trades that are around. … It takes a community to help kids, but definitely having opportunities to employment will help curb some of that violence.”
Davis said there are thousands of open positions right now in trades in Illinois, such as 6,700 tractor trailer jobs, 2,200 industrial engineering jobs, and over 2,000 jobs for operating engineers.
“With opportunities like [Springfield’s trades jobs fair], we get young people interested in these opportunities and hopefully they’ll be able to fill these positions going forward,” Davis said.
Not having enough young people to fill the ranks is a constant theme with the skilled trades.
Plumber, Steamfitters and HVAC Local 137 training director Andrew Fuchs said they’re retiring twice as many workers than they’re inducting into the ranks.“The Baby Boomers are starting to hit the exit gates,” he said. “We’re seeing 25 to 30 retirees every year. We’re bringing about 15 people to replace that 30, so it’s a problem. There really hasn’t been too much of a problem the last couple of years because we haven’t really had a lot of growth, but as soon as that turns around we’re going to be struggling to fill them jobs.”
Fuchs said schools can do more to engage young people with the trades but so can the unions. That outreach relies on economic growth, however, he said.
“Illinois needs to grow, and when it starts growing, the trades will grow, too,” Fuchs said.
For Jacob Griffin, a pipe fitters apprentice, what’s persuasive is the economics of joining the trades out of high school. He said he learned early that college isn’t for everyone, especially for young people who don’t want to go into student loan debt.
“I come out ahead,” Griffin said. “I’m making money while they’re spending money.”
More employment information is available at IllinoisJobLink.com.