Skilled trades struggle to keep up with demand amid staffing shortages

"I need a salesman. I need a machinist, I need another mechanic, another winder, another balancer."

Posted: Nov 22, 2021 8:03 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Employers trying to hire skilled workers say they're having trouble finding enough staff to keep up with the demand for their services.

"I just think people are so used to sitting at home that it's difficult to get them in to do the actual interview process," said Jason Kaminski, the owner of Kaminski Construction in Eugene.

According to Kaminiski, it's typical for 75% to 90% of applicants to show up for their interviews. However, that number has dropped.

"I would say less than 50% even show up even after they've confirmed they'll be here for the interview process," Kaminski said.

He said his company employs 30 full-time employees who work at job sites, but to keep up with the demand, he said he needs at least six more. This has led to a backlog of work to be done. Kaminski said jobs are taking anywhere from six weeks to three months to complete.

"We typically try to run quicker timelines, anywhere from two to four weeks out, but again there's a backlog of work just due to not having as many employees," Kaminski said.

The physical labor the job requires is another reason Kaminski said it's difficult to find candidates.

"I think the physical demand on the job is a big issue where people are more geared around the easier style of work," Kaminski said.

Other employers are feeling the strain of staffing shortages as well. The owner of Newell Electric, an electric motor repair and sales company in Springfield, said he hasn't gotten a resume in more than two years. He said a job that normally takes four to five days now takes about two weeks as a result of the shortages.

"I need a salesman, I need a machinist, I need another mechanic, another winder, another balancer," Newell said.

Newell said his company currently has five employees. In order to operate more smoothly and keep up with the demand, he said he needs 12.

"Usually an apprentice, you start them off at about $20," Newell said. "I know it's not a lot to start off with what's being paid out there now today, but you can make your way up to $40, $45 an hour after time."

But as wages rise across other industries and some schools shift their focus away from teaching trade skills, there's concern for the industry's future.

"A lot of kids, the hands-on training, they're now doing computers instead of skilled labor, welding," Newell said. "You just don't see it anymore."

Both Newell and Kaminski are trying to hire workers to help catch up with the demand.

"If you're good with math you can do this job," Newell said. "If you're good with your hands, got a good skill set, know your fractions, come see me."

Despite the challenges, Kaminski Construction is still planning to give back to the community this holiday season.

"We are going to be going and packing Thanksgiving turkey boxes for some organizations that have donated to that to hand those out," Kaminski said.

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