The Blue Collar, Lift Mechanic, Drought

The Blue Collar, Lift Mechanic, Drought

Drought for all technically and skilled labor

Last month’s Steep Newsletter had a post on Steep’s thoughts on addressing the current lift mechanic situation in the ski industry. This post shares some deeper thinking, not Steep’s, on why the drought of skilled tradespeople exists.

All ski areas, big and small, have an ongoing need to maintain and improve their physical infrastructure. This need requires skilled carpenters, welders, mechanics, electricians, wastewater technicians, and general laborers. These positions at ski areas are hard to fill when openings occur, and with the aging of the current workforce, gaps are happening faster than in the past. Is this a unique situation for just ski areas? No. it is a national problem across most industries.

The Blue-Collar Drought article from the HR Daily Newsletter and Dana Willkie explains why this drought exists. There are several parts to the explanation;

·        A blue-collar work can come with a stigma

·        Skills Training Declines in the U.S.

·        A number of people are likely making the wrong choice of attending a traditional four-year                   school versus a trade school program

·        “If you pay people enough, they will do these jobs,” he says. “But wages remain flat. In addition to the pay, schedules have become more challenging for employees, with more required overtime, and job security has largely evaporated.” 

While these explanations address the national scene, the explanations have merit in the ski area industry. Last month, Steep’s Newsletter post tried to identify and suggest solutions for the pay and skill training issues shared in this article. Steep would claim that there is more to do within the industry. In a past post, Steep shared the training opportunities for ski lift mechanics. Steep would argue that a lot more can be done in developing and training the young people coming out of high school. Imagine states like California, Utah, Colorado, and Vermont, all ski states, running an apprentice program through their community college system. These should be fully supported by each state’s ski association and the ski areas within the states and maybe states bordering these states.

 Yes, it is out of the box, but the answers will come from some out-of-the-box thinking to provide the ski area industry with the skills it needs now and in the future. A community college program could happen quite quickly. There are programs run by private entities, Colorado Mountain College, Selkirk College, and Gogebic Community College, that have the platforms for online teaching coupled with work experience and in-classroom instruction. The wheel has been invented.

 Who will lead the charge?