The numbers don’t tell the whole story, according to Bob Sineni, general manager of Timberland’s PRO brand, which serves the industrial footwear and workwear markets.
“By 2025 if we don’t address the open skilled trade jobs in the U.S., the impact of those unfilled jobs can be serious,” Sineni explains.
“There will be bridges that don’t get maintained, highways that aren’t repaired. And it will also impact how our country moves forward. For example, smart energy efforts will be unable to move forward due to a lack of skilled workers to make and install wind turbines. So many things that won’t take place without skilled workers.”
So why aren’t people taking these jobs?
There are a number of reasons and one of the most common is that there is a perception problem in how people view these jobs. But Sineni says there is a larger, more fundamental issue. “Children gravitate towards jobs in skilled trades, but this preference disappears when they grow up,” says Sineni.
At the high school level, there is no longer a clear path to the trades, as many vocational courses are gone due to budget cuts, Sineni points out.
There is also still the perception is that if you don’t go to college you go into a trade as a default, he says.
“All of these factors converge and make these jobs less sought-after," explains Sineni. "We want to change that. We are creating a movement that explains the necessity and value of these jobs to the next generation of workers.”
One of the steps in creating that movement was a promotional campaign the company created in 2018, called “Always Do, Never Done.”
And in 2019, Timberland Pro joined Generation T, which is a movement led by Lowe’s Companies Inc. and supported by 60 other companies whose aim is to create a path to grow talented tradespeople.
“Timberland, along with other Fortune 500 companies signed a pledge, that we will work together to create the next generation of skilled workers,” says Sineni. “We want to teach this next generation how to build again, how to use tools.”
In keeping with the best way to attract future workers, the movement frames their objective in a slogan that is at the heart of younger people’s goals. The motto is: “We are on a mission to change people’s lives.”
Their objectives address how they are approaching the next generation.
To show them "work" doesn't have to be a grind. To show them "benefits" go way beyond healthcare and a 401k. To show them you can enjoy what you do and still buy a house, take vacations, and support a family.
To give them hope, happiness, and the satisfaction of a job well done. To connect them to the growing number of rewarding opportunities that are ready for the taking.
By 2028 there will be 3 million job openings in the skilled trades. We're on a mission to connect people with those opportunities.
We are Generation T. Are you with us?
Timberland is taking this message directly to the students. In April 2019, Timberland PRO joined with other supporters of Generation T and held a day-long immersion event at Milford High School in Massachusetts to introduce the 150 students who participated to the trades and give them hands-on building experience. They built dog houses that were donated to local shelters.
“We talked to the students about the dignity of this type of work,” says Sineni. “We told them that there are good, high-paying careers in a number of trades and these jobs can also be their path to owning their own companies.”
At the end of the program, local companies were waiting to talk to these students and offer them work for the summer or apprenticeships.
“That day we created a tremendous amount of interest for the next generation of workers,” says Sineni.
The company was also involved at Generation T Bunk Build, which on Oct. 9 hosted 300 high school students at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The students built 100 bunk beds that will be given to families in Pasadena who were victims of last year's Camp Fire.
Rebuilding communities a key element for the company. In fact, they launched a website called RebuildersNeeded.com, in connection with the TV ad campaign. “This website connects our employees with communities who are in need of rebuilding, whether it’s from hurricanes, tornados or fires,” says Sineni. “As people from across the country rally to help others in times of need it reminds us of our reliance on skilled workers to repair our homes and our communities.”
Finding and training these future skilled workers will take the combined efforts of companies like Timberland as well as the educational system as well as local governments and other partners.
“We need to spread the word and remind the next generation that our country was built by skilled tradesman and there is a lot of dignity in that kind of work,” says Sineni.