What to Expect in the Skilled Trades in 2024?

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In the skilled trades, 2023 was a year of innovation and transformation. Not only was it a banner year for AI, but many industries that employ skilled workers also continued to integrate automation into their core operations. In some fields it was a year of new opportunities, particularly in the energy sector, which is currently undergoing a period of significant transition. And of course, the ongoing labour shortage continued to be a topic of concern, spurring employers to adopt new technologies for hiring tradespeople and explore how to recruit a new generation of workers

So, what can we expect for the skilled trades in 2024? Early forecasts are showing that it is anticipated to be another year of change. Employers can get ahead of the curve by understanding the impending shifts and adapting accordingly, using new practices and technologies to meet tomorrow’s challenges. 

What trends should companies that employ skilled workers expect in 2024? 

With the new year approaching, leaders in the skilled trades should be paying attention to these top issues. 

The AI revolution will continue 

2023 marked a breakout year for AI, and the trend is expected to continue through 2024 and beyond. According to research from McKinsey, spending on AI is rising, with 63% of surveyed businesses saying they expect their investment to increase over the next three years. 

What does that mean for the skilled trades? Expect AI integrations to emerge in full force across a range of industries. On job sites and in manufacturing, it’s being used in conjunction with robotics to perform many simple tasks with the support of human workers. It’s also being used for inventory management, using cloud-based technology to track parts, source them, and keep costs down. Recruitment is also experiencing a boost from AI, with staffing teams implementing software in their hiring process to entice candidates and hire more efficiently. 

While AI is unlikely to replace skilled workers, it will continue to be a powerful tool to support the skilled trades, taking over some of the most repetitive, dull, and dangerous jobs. AI and automation are being lauded not only for improving efficiency, but for keeping workers safe, improving health and safety conditions for workers. 

Training using virtual reality 

Another technology changing the game is virtual reality (VR), as many industries see the potential for applications in the skilled trades. In several fields, it’s beginning to be integrated into training programs, recognizing that the vocations take significant hours of hands-on learning to master techniques.  

In trades such as welding, virtual reality is helping to expedite skills development and reduce training costs. While it’s not a direct substitute for real-world experience, VR learning can supplement on-the-job training to accelerate career growth in a range of skilled trades. 

Digital transformation 

Over the past few years, the push toward digital transformation has accelerated in the skilled trades. Companies and tradespeople that employ skilled workers are increasingly adopting digital tools, using cloud-based platforms to store data, produce quotes, plan projects, and take payments. 

As this shift continues in 2024, workers who are familiar with new technologies or comfortable learning to use online platforms will be highly valued in their industries. 

A new generation is entering the workforce 

In 2024, the ongoing labour shortage is expected to continue to have a major impact on recruitment in the skilled trades. As older workers retire, staffing agencies and HR departments are exploring new strategies to recruit more young workers to fill the gaps in the skilled labour force. 

However, hiring Gen Z in the skilled trades is proving to be challenging. Interest in skilled trades among the younger generation is declining, with recent surveys revealing that just 16 percent of Gen Z are likely to consider a career in a skilled trade. 

To attract young workers, companies will be continuing to experiment with new techniques. As a result, we can expect to see trends such as new working options (think split shifts, flexible time-off, and swappable shifts), as well as more engagement on social media and partnerships with trades schools. 

Equity, diversity, and inclusion continue to be key 

In 2023, it became clear that embracing equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) is more important than ever for employers in the skilled trades. According to a survey in 2020 from GlassDoor, more than three quarters of workers, employees, and job seekers (76%) consider a diverse workforce to be an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. As older workers retire, younger workers are looking for employers that are committed to improving diversity and ensuring that the workplace is inclusive for everyone.  

As EDI becomes more vital for hiring, companies will increasingly be looking to staffing agencies and HR departments to help them find candidates from a diverse range of backgrounds to meet their hiring goals. For employers, acquiring a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding EDI will be critical to successful recruitment. 

The bottom line 

In the skilled trades, companies and workers can expect another year of change in 2024. With new technologies such as AI, cloud-based tools, and virtual reality continuing to grow in popularity, tradespeople are changing how they seek jobs, grow their skills, and conduct work. And as a new generation enters the skilled workforce, employers will be incentivized to adopt new practices to hire and retain top talent. The latest transformations in the sector offer challenges, but they also provide opportunities for organizations that are prepared to adapt and grow accordingly. 

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