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West Michigan companies suffering from shortage of skilled trade workers

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WEST MICHIGAN (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – West Michigan companies are suffering from a dire shortage of skilled trade workers. Some say they just can’t seem to fill many high-paying jobs.

Businesses that Newschannel 3 spoke with say that ten years ago the trouble was finding enough work to keep all their employees busy, but these days it’s just the opposite; the work is out there, but the workers are not.

It’s a never-ending assembly line at Woodward’s Garage in Kalamazoo. Business is on the up, but unfortunately the number of qualified mechanics out there is trending in the opposite direction.

Woodward’s calls it a major shortage, and a major problem.

“It’s just a struggle every day when you have all these cars to fix and you don’t have enough people to get them fixed,” said Greg Penny, manager at Woodward’s Garage, “and then that kind of puts a strain on your business.”

And Woodward’s isn’t alone in this.

“We are at a shortage of 20 percent right now,” said Steve Huizenga at Allied Mechanical Services, “it’s hard to find people to do the type of work we do.”

Huizenga says as high school students are getting prodded toward college, interest in the trades is dropping off, even though the pay is often better.

“All our people make very good money,” said Huizenga, “in the upper five digits into the six digits in the construction industry technology is booming, we use 3-D laser scanning, we use augmented reality.”

The median hourly wages are surprising, and if you have the skills, the jobs are there.

Kalamazoo Valley Community College says the amount of job openings is easily double their pool of skilled trade graduates and that gap is expected to continue growing as the older generation retires.

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