What are the skilled trades?

Do you enjoy working with your hands?

Is the thought of a desk job unappealing to you?

Would you like a career that’ll be in-demand for years to come?

If you answered yes to these questions, a skilled trades career might be just what you’re looking for. Let us help you better understand what are skilled labor trades, and why they’re important to the economy

Skilled trade workers are hands-on, and require extensive specialized training. It’s physically demanding and there are times you’ll have to battle the elements, but it’s also rewarding work that offers high earning potential.


Skilled vs Unskilled Workers


Our society depends heavily on skilled workers. And there is a big difference between unskilled workers vs skilled workers in America.  Without skilled workers, we wouldn’t have roads, schools, workplaces or homes. They’re responsible for building and maintaining the very foundations of our lives. 

Skilled trade workers are also crucial to the US economy. In 2019, the construction industry alone contributed 4.1 percent of the country’s GDP. 

But there’s a problem...

As newer generations focus more on getting bachelor’s degrees, it has caused a sharp decline of young people becoming skilled trades workers. Couple that with retiring baby boomers leaving the industry, and it poses real challenges ahead. 

In fact, 70% of construction companies report they’re having a difficult time finding qualified craftsmen that make up the bulk of the skilled labor construction workforce.

If these trends continue, we can expect significant project delays and construction companies refusing to bid on smaller jobs in the future.

So if you’ve made the decision to get into skilled trades -- great! We need you. Here are some of the most in-demand careers in the US right now:




Electricians are responsible for designing, installing, and maintaining electrical wiring systems. They work in a wide range of environments, including houses, high-rises, commercial and industrial buildings. Their services are essential to everyday life, as we’d have no way to power things like electronic devices, refrigerators, or manufacturing machines without them.




Welders use extreme heat and gas to fuse metal together, and repair holes in metal structures. Welders work pretty much everywhere -- construction, manufacturing plants and industrial factories. They even work underwater to repair ship hulls, ocean oil rigs, and other aquatic structures.

    • 2019 Median Pay - $42,490 per year/$20.42 per hour
    • Job Outlook (2018-2028) - 3% growth
    • Requirements - Although certification is not mandatory, it’s strongly recommended to do an apprenticeship (about 3 years) and get certified through the American Welding Society (AWS)
    • Associations:



Carpenters are skilled craftsmen who work with a variety of wood products. They tackle projects big and small, from designing entire building frames (known as rough carpenters), to crafting custom cabinets and furniture (known as finish carpenters).

skilled trades

(Source: Freepik.com)



Plumbers specialize in the installation, maintenance, and repair of piping used for drinking water, sewage and draining. They work with any appliance that uses water, such as sinks, bathtubs, toilets, refrigerators, and washing machines. As with electricians, honest and reliable plumbers are essential to our everyday lives...as things would get messy without them.

  • 2019 Median Pay - $55,160 per year/$26.52 per hour
  • Job Outlook (2018-2028) - 14% growth
  • Requirements - 4-5 year apprenticeship, with most states requiring a plumber’s license
  • Associations:


Millwrights | Industrial Machinery Mechanics | Conveyor Installers


Millwrights (sometimes referred to as industrial machinery mechanics or conveyor installers) assemble, install, repair, and dismantle heavy machinery across many different industries. They need to be highly-skilled and incredibly precise while following detailed technical plans. Millwrights often operate large trucks and cranes to carry out their duties.

  • 2019 Median Pay - $52,850 per year/$25.41 per hour
  • Job Outlook (2018-2028) - 5% growth
  • Requirements - 3-4 year apprenticeship to be considered qualified
  • Associations:

Concrete Finishers (Cement Masons)


Concrete finishers (or Masons) place, finish, protect, and repair concrete. Unfinished concrete is thick and sticky and needs to be constantly mixed to prevent hardening. Workers create temporary or permanent forms, into which they pour the concrete so that it hardens and can be finished. Concrete is the most commonly used man-made material on earth, and the building block on which our roads and cities are built.

skilled trades staffing

(Source: Freepik.com)

Do I need to attend school for trades?


Completing a skilled trades apprenticeship is almost always mandatory, whereas trade school is not. Here are some points for you to consider:



  • Trade school provides a foundation of knowledge for whichever trade you’d like to do
  • Can help set you apart from other apprentice applicants
  • Usually cheaper than going to college or university
  • Offers flexible learning options, such as online, night and weekend classes



  • Not mandatory
  • Depending on the program, tuition fees can be expensive
  • Less opportunity for financial aid than standard colleges
  • Limited future career options


Although it’s recommended, there are certain situations where you may not need to attend a trades school.

For example: if you’ve been learning carpentry from a family member since a young age, you might be able to skip it and go straight to an apprenticeship.

Otherwise, trade school provides the foundation of knowledge that’ll help jumpstart your career.

Education is almost always a plus. Be sure to weigh your options carefully and research different programs and courses.


Skilled Trades Staffing


If you’ve recently completed your apprenticeship, but are having trouble finding a job, consider a construction-specific staffing agency.

Elite Force can help you find work in your industry; we’ve provided skilled labor tradespeople to top builders for over 50 combined years. Our focus on construction is the reason why our clients trust us to provide them with quality trades workers.


Get Skilled Labor Sent to Your Project Anywhere in the USA