You Just Can’t Find the Skilled Blue-Collar Workers These Days

When it comes to reasons for electricity prices going through the roof, the

inability of your local utility company to find qualified line technicians is

not going to be very high up the list. But when it comes to the US economy more

broadly, the inability of companies to hire good workers in unglamorous jobs

can be a serious impediment to economic growth. Andrew Leonard has a

great post on the subject:

In Florida, a line technician makes a base wage of $53,000 and with overtime

can earn up to $100,000. That’s pretty good money, for a job that can’t be

offshored and is unlikely to be nabbed by an illegal immigrant. But the electrical

industry is getting awfully nervous because, well, kids today don’t seem to

want to become line technicians, and the ones that are on the job are getting

a little gray around the temple. Half of Florida’s line technicians are reportedly

set to retire within five years…

There appears to be a perception that a job as line technician or welder or

pipe-fitter just isn’t considered "cool" anymore, regardless of

whether the wages are a hell of a lot more attractive than those offered by

your average fast food joint or coffee shop…

I found myself wondering what high school students in China or India would

make of the question of whether a job that can pay up to a hundred grand a

year is "cool" or "sick" enough to spur American young

adults out of a lifetime wallowing in anomie…

You have to wonder whether, in this case, there isn’t some truth to the theory

that there are some jobs that Americans just don’t want to do anymore.

The solution to the problem, of course, is very simple: immigration. There’s

a shortage of mathematically-skilled young people wanting to enter the Florida

blue-collar workforce? Not if you think globally there isn’t: I’m sure there

are hundreds of thousands of qualified individuals in India alone who would

jump at the opportunity. But those aren’t the kind of jobs you can get an H1-B

visa for.

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