We Can’t Find Skilled People

As an employee retention speaker and employee retention trainer, I often hear the struggles of employee retention when it comes to the issue of skilled trades.  As things have continued to tighten, I am now hearing comments like, “We can’t find skilled people.”  They are fine with unskilled and semi-skilled after working a systematic retention process.  Skilled people are another matter.  All I hear is lamenting about a lack of people to fill certain skilled jobs.  My reaction, “So what’s new?”  This same issue existed in 1980 and during other times of economic expansion.  We were hurting for electricians, tool and die makers, millwrights and just about any skilled trade there was during those times.

Skilled trades have always been hard to find.  What did we do?  We trained out own.  We opened it up to the best people in the plant that were not in the skilled trades and provided an avenue for growth for those people.  Thus, we created a career path so that people wanted to stay.  Hmmmmmm…..you think that helped our employee retention?  Well it’s time to go back to what worked in the past….train your own people!  We will spend $200,000 or more on a new CNC machine but won’t invest $150,000 to train someone to run it.  We always want to “steal” someone from another company or hope that someone miraculously shows up at our door.

I have written how many companies are too damn cheap to train people.  Other employees see that they are not willing to “invest” in their people and this sends a powerfully negative message that people are not a priority; buying equipment is.  If you want to send the message that people are a priority, start putting money into your training budget to create your own highly skilled workforce.  Most people love it, go through the training and then stick around.  Most people don’t want to start all over at a new company.  They will stay especially when you are putting your money where your mouth is; in training dollars.  Spending money says you value their contribution and are willing to actually act on it.

If everyone started training people and, skilled trades in particular, our skilled trades shortage would probably not go away but it would certainly get better.  If you want to solve your skilled trades deficit, start investing.  That investment will pay off and people do stick around because they see the commitment the organization has made to them.  It’s time to stop whining about the lack of skilled people and do something about it.  Train your own!

Jeff Kortes


Jeff Kortes is an employee retention expert who speaks and conducts workshops regularly in Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Indiana. He draws on his experiences as a human resources professional, father, coach, martial artist and U.S. Army veteran to provide thought-provoking programs that yield results.