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How to Recruit Skilled Labor in the Trade Industry

by Colling Media - January 19, 2022

Hiring Shortages in the Trade Industry

Skilled trades have been experiencing a labor shortage for years, and the perception among companies hiring skilled labor is that the drought is worsening. According to, 68% of tradespeople have struggled to hire skilled workers, and over one-third (35%) are slightly or highly understaffed. This lack of skilled employees is dampening economic growth with over half of tradespeople (52%) saying a lack of an available workforce is stunting their expansion plans, and 68% say they could grow their business if they find more suitable workers. In fact, this appears to be a part of a larger trend as 87% of employers report they have trouble finding qualified talent. (Monster) Companies must find new ways to recruit skilled labor in the trade industry.

Skilled Trades Not Raw Physical Labor

“Skilled labor” refers to highly trained, educated, or experienced segments of the workforce that can complete more complex mental or physical tasks on the job. Skilled labor is often specialized and may require prolonged training and experience. ( It is these additional skills, acquired through either education or experience, that sets skilled labor apart from unskilled, physical labor.

Unskilled labor refers to work requiring specific skills or formal education. Some examples of unskilled labor include cashiers, grocery clerks, and cleaners. ( There are even unskilled laborers in many trades focusing on work that is primarily manual labor. In some cases, these laborers can acquire skills through on-the-job training.

Rethinking Way to Recruit Skilled Labor

Markets change over time, and the labor market is no exception. Over the past couple of decades, ever-larger numbers of young adults have pursued a college education, rather than a technical education or on-the-job training. That trend has led to a reduction in the amount of skilled labor available in the labor market. As with any market, a lack of supply shifts power towards the suppliers, in this case: the skilled worker. Companies that would like to recruit and hire skilled labor must recognize that we are in a labor-driven job market rather than an employer-driven job market. In the past (i.e. in an employer-driven job market), businesses could list all the qualifications, the amount of compensation and post it on a job board to get plenty of applicants who were willing to compete for the opportunity to fill the vacancy.

In today’s labor-driven job market, job postings must sell candidates why they want to work for you. The number of available jobs exceeds the number of available workers, putting the power in the hands of the applicants, who are able to pick and choose which job best suits them. It is no longer enough to post those positions next to all the other open positions on job boards and simply wait for applications to roll in (you should still post there, it just can’t be the only thing you do).

Recruiting Skilled Labor Roadmap

A labor-driven job market is nothing new to some industries. For example, trucking companies have been dealing with a skilled labor shortage for almost ten years, and we can use them to guide how other businesses should proceed. Companies hiring truck drivers treat recruiting as a lead generation campaign, including paid advertisements, separate landing pages, website SEO, Google My Business pages, social media campaigns, and specialized recruiters to bring in new hires.

One way to attract new workers is to increase wages and other compensation, and many companies are moving in that direction. However, there is a limit to the amount any company can pay for a given role because at some point the cost of an employee exceeds the cost a customer is willing to pay for the goods or services that the employee will be providing. Increasing wages becomes a race similar to price wars that eventually have to end somewhere, namely the line at which costs exceed revenues.

The alternative is to stop competing on dollars and start competing on value. This is inevitably where businesses end up in a price war. At some price, they cannot go any lower, so they have to start convincing prospects that their product is actually worth more than the competition. In the world of hiring, this means treating the process of finding candidates like a lead generation campaign. Companies will need to craft effective messages that clearly convey the value of working for them; they will need to invest advertising dollars to put that message in front of the right people, and they will need to put more effort into closing the sale once that lead comes in.


Does your business need help attracting skilled labor? Colling Media has experience creating and managing campaigns to bring in competent candidates for skilled positions such as truck driving, auto/diesel mechanics, electricians, and more. We also have experience generating leads for schools that train in technical, trade, and professional fields. Our advertising system speaks to these audiences, and if your company is willing to train, we can bring in those types of candidates too.

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