College not for you? Trained and skilled craftsmen in high demand in Mississippi

Published: Mar. 14, 2022 at 3:33 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - There is a growing concern that there could soon be a critical shortage of people signing up to become electricians, plumbers, carpenters, and bricklayers.

But there’s now an effort to change that.

“It is one of the most best things I have experienced in my life,” said Zachery Scaggs. “It is quite the experience working with your hands.”

He was one of hundreds of career and technical education students who participated in the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation Skills USA State Championship. The two-day event happened at the Mississippi Trade Mart in Jackson.

Teams worked against the clock and each other, proving their expertise in everything from welding and carpentry, to cabinet making.

Mike Barkett is the president of the Construction Foundation. It trains 8,000 people a year in various trades.

“We train them in carpentry, electrical, plumbing, masonry, welding, sheet-metal, HVAC and industrial maintenance, and the list goes on,” he said.

But he admits craft positions are in high demand now more than ever - especially since the pandemic. Barkett also points out that closing the gap and getting more people trained will help boost our economy and state.

“By the year 2023, we’re going to be 80,000 craft professionals short,” he said. “That’s due to retirement, that’s due to age, that’s due to a lot of different things. But we need a lot of young people to get in this trade to find a new career path.

“Overall, the whole United States will be over 1 million short of craft professionals throughout the whole United States. There’s work to be done, we just don’t have the people to do it yet.”

Instructors from across the state attending the event couldn’t agree more. They say the benefits of skilled trade workers include a lucrative income and career stability just to name a few.

“You can’t have everyone working in the office. Somebody’s got to build the office,” said Bill Goldman with the Waltham County Career and Technical Center. “Everybody can’t be nurses. Somebody’s got to build the hospitals and without those people, everything stops.”

“Trades show no sign of being automated,” added Rick Robbins with the New Albany Technical Career and Technical Center. “There is not a robot who is going to come out and fix your wiring for you. Trades are going to be in demand. It is worth investing your career.”

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