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Help Wanted   [Part Two]

Workforce Economics

Why are 53 percent of four-year college graduates under 25 unemployed or under-employed? In its January 2013 report, “Why Are Recent College Graduates Under-Employed?” the Center for College Affordability and Productivity produced evidence of the current disconnect in workforce supply and demand. In simple terms: employers need workers with hands-on skills. According to the US Labor Department statistics, three-million unfilled jobs through 2020 require some post-secondary education or an associate’s degree.

In Maryland, the National Skills Coalition found the same gap between supply and demand: 48 percent of all jobs in Maryland are classified as middle-skill, requiring more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree, such as automotive technician, electrician, and plumber; but only 37 percent of Maryland’s workers have the education and training required to fill these positions.

This all means that while some four-year degree graduates bide their time for better jobs, blue-collar workers—welders, electricians, and plumbers—are getting ahead in the recovering economy.

Compensation in the trades remains strong. The median annual wage of plumbers, for example, was $46,660 in May 2010.*

“An HVAC technician in the Steamfitters Local 602, who completes a five-year apprenticeship, can make close to $80,000 per year, before overtime,” says building trades program director John Phillips.

In automobile maintenance and repair shops, an “A tech,” the most highly trained technician with industry certifications and top skills, can easily top $100,000 annually.

“Nothing has been able to replace installing a light switch,” says Phillips. Fellow instructor Jerry Williamson concurs: “HVAC systems have computers built in. So technicians see diagnostics that can indicate several reasons why a part or a machine fails, but it is still up to the tech to figure it out and perform the repair.

Lily Landau ’12

Career Opportunities: Apartment Maintenance Workers

Property maintenance companies currently need general maintenance and repair workers for 50,000–60,000 rental units across Montgomery County. Employers pay competitive wages for starters (e.g., $16–$19 per hour) and on average $60,000–$70,000 for more skilled workers. Earning potential can reach six figures for supervisors of large property management companies.

“Within a 50-mile radius of the Rockville Campus, I found just under 300 job openings for building maintenance workers,” says Ed Roberts, instructional dean, Gudelsky Institute for Technical Education. Roberts says the program has been successful since it started in 2010. “There is so much enthusiasm from the industry to attend our job fairs and to hire students.”

The certified apartment maintenance technician program covers basic repair and management of property systems. Upon completion, students receive a provisional NAA certificate. After one year of employment, workers can obtain a permanent certificate.

Click here for a video about the apartment maintenance technician program.


*US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

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