Plenty of Old Fashioned Skilled Labor needed

Shared from 11 Alive – Tom Crawley

ATLANTA – Ask almost any company that needs them and they’ll tell you they are hurting for good old fashioned skilled laborers…people who are trained to work with their hands.

Thanks to a growing number of retiring baby boomers and a shrinking population coming along behind them, some estimates predict there could be as many as 16,500 skilled labor jobs opening up in Georgia over the next year.

Many companies, like Atlanta Gas Light and Georgia Power, say they’re already having trouble filling them.

“It’s getting tougher and tougher because kids really haven’t been that interested in going back into the craft skills,” Georgia Power President and CEO Paul Bowers told 11Alive News.

He says there are about 30,000 unfilled skilled labor jobs in the utility industry right now.

Dozens of students from several Georgia high schools took over parts of the State Capitol on Tuesday, showing off the technical skills they’re already learning in masonry, carpentry, plumbing and electrical work.

Their instructors say those skills will one day earn them a good wage, even without a four-year college degree.

“You’re talking anywhere starting out around $25,000 to $28,000,” said Michael Madsen, of the Construction Technology program at West Hall High School.

“By the time you get done with your apprenticeship, after 3, 4 or 5 years, whatever the apprenticeship is, you could be making easy $50,000 to $60,000,” he added.

Madsen says add ten or twenty more thousand a year in possible overtime pay since so many projects lack enough workers.

His students participated in Republican Gov. Nathan Deal’s kickoff of the Go Build Georgia program.

It’s a private-public partnership to encourage more people to consider trade skills they can learn in Georgia’s technical schools and colleges.

But some Democrats, like State Senator Jason Carter (D-DeKalb County), complain that the governor seems to be contradicting himself by cutting back on aid for Georgia’s technical students this year.

“The state needs to put its money where its mouth is,” Carter told 11Alive News.

“We’re spending a day down here celebrating these trades and cutting $18 million out of the HOPE Grant, which helps people go to technical school,” he said.

In response, Gov. Deal’s office said this year’s lower amount for HOPE Grants is partly because higher grade point requirements will mean fewer students can qualify.

The governor’s office also said that after years of surging, technical college enrollment has leveled off this year, requiring fewer grants.

His program is aimed at increasing that enrollment again by encouraging more students to seek skilled labor jobs as a more certain future.

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