Coronavirus and Skilled Trades

The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is having a massive impact on industries all around the world. In this article, we explore the effects of the coronavirus on the Skilled Trade industry in the United States, and what it reveals about these occupations.

As the world shuts down to slow the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), “essential” businesses remain important and necessary resources. Recently, much debate spawned over the definition of “essential” in terms of skilled trades work. Skilled trades workers are not accustomed to this type of spotlight.

Within the skilled trades, various types of jobs and sites exist. Skilled trades include, but are not limited to: plumbing, electrical, HVAC, carpentry, masonry and glaziers. Construction skilled trades applies to trades needed on new construction sites in residential, commercial and industrial settings. Service skilled trades applies to trades that provide services to homes and businesses. Service tradespeople provide services, such as: changing out leaky water heaters, repairing busted sewer lines and fixing broken electrical lines.

These services need to continue to ensure that utilities and services remain operational for the public during the pandemic.

Skilled trades workers are very familiar with tight health and safety restrictions due to the inherent dangers on construction or service sites. The term PPE or “personal protective equipment,” dominated skilled trade worker’s vernacular long before the Coronavirus pandemic. Protective eyewear, gloves and respirators are a few of the personal protective equipment pieces found on a skilled trade job site.

In the skilled trades construction and service industry, the impetus for safety falls not just to the employer or contractor, but on the workers themselves. It is the responsibility of the contractor or union to provide essential safety PPE. But, if not provided or not provided adequately, the worker should absolutely consult with their safety manager or union leaders. Workers who receive PPE should inspect and ensure that it fits appropriately. (However, as many construction sites close down across our nation, construction workers and unions have gifted their PPE to hospital workers and medical staff.)

As factories shut down to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, delays in materials and shipping of equipment are to be expected. At the end of March 2020, The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) updated their “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce” list to include not just tradespeople but also their suppliers. Support supply chains providing for tradespeople have been included, and therefore protected, with this latest revision from CISA.

Never has such a need for skilled trade workers been felt so deeply. With the classification of “essential” and “non-essential business,” it should be apparent that skilled trades work is crucial to the vitality, infrastructure and continuity of our nation. Millennials and Generation Z should find themselves considering these essential skilled trades jobs with a more stable job outlook. Very few positives can be gleaned from this worldwide pandemic, but it has shown a light on the opportunities and stability of skilled trades work.

As Americans step up across the nation to support fellow Americans, skilled trades workers join medical workers on the front lines by providing necessary infrastructure for the nation while risking their own health. Fortunately, unions across the nation are working to ensure union workers are safe and well provided for in these unpredictable times. However, much of the nation is not unionized and will need to do their own research on available opportunities and options during the pandemic. Whatever your skilled trade, take care and stay safe.

For information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on how to protect against the virus and what to do once infected, visit their Coronavirus Information page

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