A Publication of WTVP

As central Illinois wrestles with the impact of the current recession, sometimes we overlook sectors of our economy that may offer future career opportunities. Despite the current high rate of unemployment in our region, there are several sectors that are quite promising for the next decade. They include: healthcare; education; engineering and advanced manufacturing; transportation, warehousing and logistics; and construction, installation and repair.

The construction trades are considered a high-growth sector for central Illinois based upon projections from the Illinois Department of Employment Security. These long-term projections indicate that the construction trades will experience an average nine-percent growth rate over the next decade. There will be high growth rates and strong career opportunities in a number of skilled trade occupations. These include: roofers (17%); heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) professionals (12%); plumbers, pipe fitters and steam fitters (12%); painters (12%); construction laborers (11%); carpenters (10%); operating engineers (8%); and electricians (8%).

Several factors make the construction trades a major growth sector for the foreseeable future. One factor is the reality that these jobs are hard to export. The unique nature of the construction process requires a local or regionally-based talent force. A second reason is demographics. The average age of the local skilled trade worker is over 40 years old, and workers in most trades are eligible for retirement at age 55. As a result, retirements in the construction trades are projected to peak over the next decade. By 2016, it is projected that at least 550 newly trained workers will be needed for these occupations.

A third reason for the projected need of skilled trades workers will be the movement toward new energy technologies and the resulting spin-off to the construction industry. The construction trades and industry will play a critical role in building the infrastructure to meet new energy standards, constructing new energy-efficient buildings and retro-fitting existing structures.

The skilled trades also represent good-paying professional occupations that are locally-based. These high-growth occupations generate a median hourly wage of about $29 per hour, with a potential projected economic impact to our region approaching $60 million in wages by 2016. As a result of these projections, construction trade, education and workforce development organizations are developing strategies to meet these long term needs. These organizations are partnering to train and recruit future construction trade workers. These workers will need strong academic and technical skills, as well as critical work ethic, teaming and communication skills.

Over the last year, the Central Illinois Workforce Board and Workforce Network have partnered with a number of local organizations to begin to address some of these long-term workforce needs. Examples include:

Despite our current economic challenges, the future holds promise for the skilled trades in central Illinois. iBi