Trade skills in high demand, but employees hard to find
Construction is big business in Lawton and surrounding areas, but area contractors and sub-contractors say a lack of skilled tradesmen is slowing down projects and leaving contractors to compete for the available laborers in order to complete projects.
One general contractor, who has a major school building project under development, said the problem exists not only in Lawton but is widespread throughout Oklahoma and the rest of the United States.
Steve Thurman with Crossland Construction out of Oklahoma City said he is regularly hearing from his subcontractors that they are having trouble finding qualified help in the form of electricians, plumbers, HVAC installers and service personnel.
Mark Pippin, co-owner of Pippin’s Brothers, Inc., which does commercial plumbing and residential HVAC work, said there is a lot of work, especially in the area surrounding Lawton, but not enough workers to go around.
Both men attributed the lack of qualified employees to a desire among younger people to focus on college-based careers as opposed to trade skills.
“No one is pushing the trades as a profession,” Thurman said, noting that many secondary schools tend to push students to attend college, even though trade skills are in high demand.
Pippin said kids these days are much more likely to be pushed in the direction of college as a viable career path. He added that often most young people are clueless as to what many of the trade professions actually do.
Pippin said more people would be attracted to the various trade fields if they knew what to expect. For instance, Pippin noted that a lot of young people are interested in careers in technology, but they don’t realize how high tech many of these professions are in the 21st century.