Work It | Urban Living

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Work It

Posted By on August 29, 2018, 4:00 AM

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I heard the oddest thing on the radio the other day, a report on the death of a local firefighter: "Millennials don't want to fight fires; they don't want our kind of jobs." The speaker didn't seem to have a gripe against the age group so much, but was venting about his own job. His point—which he could have made a little better without picking on an age group—was that the average annual wage for a firefighter in Utah is about $44,000. Sure, they also get great benefits packages, but wages are low—especially since the job entails risking your life.

I chatted with a Millenial while waiting in line at the store recently. I asked him about his job as a sales rep and if that profession was his passion. He laughed: "No, I'd rather be a car mechanic. I love cars and I love to race them!" I asked him if he had tried getting work at some of the car dealerships around the valley and he laughed again. "They have really low wages and I'm making $24 an hour here." I told him to stick with his passion and maybe flip cars after he worked on them. That's his life plan for now.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its report on job growth from July 2017 to July 2018. And guess what? Utah was número uno in job growth during that period, adding just more than 51,000 jobs. That's terrific news for local and state government officials who want to see steady growth here. More jobs mean businesses are hiring. And yet anyone I know who owns a business is having one helluva a time hiring employees. My friend owns a landscaping business. He's lost 60 percent of his crew due to beefed-up immigration enforcement, and his seasonal workers are afraid to come back to the U.S. on work visas. His business is growing, but he can't keep up with his current customers' demands—let alone make new customers happy. Not many people want to dig dirt, cut trees and move gravel in 100-degree heat. And if he does get a good worker, he often loses them to a competitor who will pay $1 more per hour.

Statewide, the biggest job growth here has been in the trades. The demand for construction workers, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, crane operators and HVAC techs is insane (and, hey, no college degree/loans needed for those jobs.) According to trade-schools.net the average hourly pay for any of those jobs is hovering around $30 an hour nationally. Look around at all the buildings going up across the state. We're having a building boom and are in desperate need of skilled workers to keep up the pace. Statistics don't lie—we have huge job growth and we can't fill the jobs needed to grow more.

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