Skilled Workforce Shortage – a North American Dilema

Read Time: 2 mins.

I have travelled and worked throughout North America for over 30 years.  Consistent and rapid decline in the skills of our workforce is a heavy burden on our ability to build and service our communities and countries.

Thirty plus years ago, skilled workers were abundant.  We had great skills and lots of it.  They (we) were a very proud bunch!

Over the last 10-15 years I have witnessed the shortage of skilled labor in Alberta’s oil sands (resulting in brining in foreign labor from around the world), Waynesboro, Georgia where unions were attracting anyone to work, skilled or not, and then letting the site supervision perform “on the job” training.  These, and other, experiences revolved around heavy industrial construction and maintenance.

Today I find myself in the very special region of central Pennsylvania.  I attend many meetings regarding this same issue (lack of skilled labor).  In this region the discussion is mainly around healthcare, retail, transportation, commercial construction (including infrastructure) and other similar industries.  Educators that I have listened to are all very aware of the skilled labor gap.  They are building and performing curriculum that blends college-prep courses with vocational training for those who desire that tract.  What I do not see at the table is a complimentary involvement from employers, labor, parents, non-profits and students.  These are critical stakeholders in all industries and in all geographic regions.  This is the same case in everywhere I have engaged in this issue.

We must all see that if we are to grow and be sustainable as communities that we all have a critical stake in elevating our skilled workforce! While each of the below have their own “drivers” (basics are below in parenthesis), alignment can and must happen!

Employers (cost control, profits, lack of resources) – if you don’t need them now, you certainly will!  You need to be front and center.   Growing your business and providing your shareholders a sustainable future is contingent on your people.

Labor (funding control, do it alone attitude, low retention in a down turn) – you get funding, in many cases, but may not be to free to use the funding.  I have witnessed this time and time again.  Why do our apprenticeships fail?  Why do young people go and find other opportunities elsewhere?

Parents (pride, peer pressure, stigmas) – why do we feel that college is the only way to go?  We create financial strain without a firm career path versus having skill sets that will get our youth to a rewarding work situation upon graduation.  We can do both and in fact the educators in my current region have curriculum that does just that!

Students (working and getting dirty, peer pressure, glamor stigma, computers, entitlement) – earn good money upon graduation.  Have a high sense of pride! Be on the right side of the supply / demand curve. Travel the world.  Retire at an age where you can enjoy it!  I have witnessed this for many tradespersons over my career.

Educators – (desire to fill the gap, giving, disconnected from other personal and business drivers) – what I see here is fantastic!  Positive thinking and gap closing mentalities.  Here I see a disconnect as they are going much of this problem solving alone. I do not see the employers, students, parents, etc. at the table working as “ONE”.  Keep it up!  Hang in there and persevere.

Strategic Executive is excited to be engaged with organizations who care.  We offer our experience to those active educators (and others) to align all concerned and influence full engagement by all parties.  All will see that when we all are aligned for the same purpose, great things can happen.

We would love to hear your comments.  Visit our BLOG at

Bob Dresser, President

Strategic Executive Consulting LLC


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