Cutting across major industry sectors from manufacturing to construction, jobs in skilled trades offer traditional employment opportunities that also change with the times and in many cases cannot be automated or offshored. Millions of American businesses ranging from very small home-improvement firms to civil construction behemoths, automotive parts makers and vehicle assembly plants offer work in skilled trades. Large employers of skilled trades workers include painting contractor Long Painting; site-preparation contractor Hayward Baker; and drywall, plaster acoustic and insulation contractor APi Group.
Skilled Trades Job Market
More than 438,000 Americans held jobs as machinists or tool and die makers in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), with these occupations expected to grow 7 percent by 2020, slower than the average occupation. There were just over 1 million carpenters in 2010, and their ranks were projected to grow by 20 percent by 2020, faster than the average occupation. Plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters held nearly 420,000 jobs in 2010, with healthy growth of 26 percent expected by 2020.
Skilled trades jobs are seeing tremendous change in the 2010s. In manufacturing, robots and outsourcing are always a threat to US skilled trades employment. Yet employers complain that they can't find enough skilled trades talent to meet the key challenge of the 21st century: adapting to continuous and accelerating changes in technology. The bottom line: Well-trained, technically astute skilled tradespeople will be able to find challenging employment opportunities.
Common skilled trades careers include machinist, tool designer, fabricator, production technician, carpenter, mason, plumber, pipefitter, steamfitter, electrician, painter and roofer.
Skilled Trades Salaries
Machinists earned median annual wages of $39,220 in May 2011, according to the BLS. Carpenters' median wages were $40,010; the top 10 percent earned $71,890. Plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters earned median annual pay of $47,750; the middle 50 percent grossed between $36,050 and $64,790.