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Turning the Tide: A Positive Shift in Skilled Labor Enrollment Trends

In 2022, MSC published an article addressing the persistent issue of the skilled labor shortage affecting the HVAC industry, one of a series of commentaries we’ve written on the subject over the past 15 years. Unlike our previous articles, however, "HVAC Service Technician is an Excellent Career. The Challenge is Convincing People", concluded on a more positive note, suggesting a potential turnaround in the near future.

We wrote that, with widespread labor shortages dominating the news during the pandemic, coupled with an ongoing push to destigmatize and diversify skilled trade career paths, "Perhaps there is hope on the horizon."

Now, emerging trade school enrollment trends lend weight to our perspective.

Research from the National Student Clearinghouse showed a surge in enrollment across various construction trades programs from spring 2021 to spring 2022, with a robust increase of 19.3%. Similarly, mechanic and repair programs experienced an 11.5% uptick, while culinary programs rose by 12.7%. During the same period, overall enrollment declined by 7.8% at public two-year colleges and 3.4% at public four-year institutions.

Trade schools have continued to make steady gains, with an enrollment increase of 6% between 2022 and 2023.

While it's clear that the skilled labor shortage remains a pressing concern that is far from over, these statistics indicate a shift in the right direction. Increasingly, young people are recognizing trade schools as a viable and financially prudent pathway to a fulfilling career, unburdened by crippling debt.

Hopefully, this growing acknowledgment of the value and potential of skilled trades heralds a brighter future where individuals and industries can thrive.


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