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New York Employers Report Need for Skilled Labor; Apprentice Programs Help Fill Gaps

A legislative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay
A recent report published by the New York State Department of Labor indicates that employers are facing labor shortages as they seek workers to fill skilled trade jobs.

The report states that these shortages are mainly due to baby boomers retiring.

The demand for skilled labor represents a good opportunity for high school graduates and individuals seeking a career change to enter these fields and train for what are often high-paying jobs.

Skilled trades pay above average wages.

The Department of Labor estimates that the overall median annual wage for skilled labor workers is $45,830.

This is roughly $3,500 more than the median annual wage for all occupations in New York, which is $42,340.

Currently, skilled trade jobs make up about 7% of the workforce, or roughly 607,000 workers.

Steel and construction workers, masons, plumbers, steamfitters, electricians, carpenters, legal secretaries, medical and dental assistants are all considered skilled labor.

Some occupations such as electricians, report a median annual wage of $68,770.

Others, such as iron or steel workers, report $90,810 as the median annual wage.

Often, it is not necessary for those entering jobs in skilled labor to obtain a traditional four-year college degree before earning a salary.

In many cases, employers provide on-the-job training and pay for additional off-site training.

Employers may also opt to offer an apprenticeship program in partnership with the Department of Labor.

With an apprenticeship, there is a written contract between the apprentice and the employer that acknowledges their shared commitment to the training process.

This agreement is approved and registered with the New York State Department of Labor.

The Department of Labor’s site lists the apprenticeships available in different regions of the state.

The site also lists a standard training outline each apprentice needs for their specific occupation.

This assures that apprentices across the state have the same set of skills.

Apprentices work under the guidance of experienced craft workers called journeyworkers.

Classroom-related instruction is often part of the apprenticeship.

This instruction can be fulfilled through a trade school, local college or through a BOCES program.

At the successful completion, the Department of Labor awards the apprentice with a “Certificate of Completion.”

This is a nationally-recognized credential.

A limited amount of apprenticeships are awarded but many organizations or businesses maintain open recruitment events throughout the year.

In fact, the Department of Labor’s website lists several announcements with details of organizations or businesses that maintain ongoing recruitment.

The site also details what is involved with becoming a skilled laborer for several occupations.

For example, some require as many as 6,000 hours of on-the-job training before certificates can be issued.

Others require far fewer hours.

Our talented, skilled workforce is an asset to our region.

Occupations found within the skilled labor workforce provide long-standing careers for many residents locally, and many are high-paying jobs that support a whole family.

To find more information about these jobs and the apprenticeship program, visit https://labor.ny.gov/apprenticeship/appindex.shtm or call the Department of Labor’s Syracuse office at 315-479-3228.

There is also information for businesses on how to become part of the apprenticeship program.

A program called Helmets to Hardhats connects veterans and transitioning active-duty military members with employment opportunities within the construction industry.

To learn more about this program, visit http://www.helmetstohardhats.org/

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office.

My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.