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Using Phillies stadium to inspire next gen of workers in the skilled trades [Opinion]

Apr. 19—The topic of this week's column is baseball, a passion of mine, as it relates to the trades.

The use of "the" in front of "trades" denotes that I'm referring to occupations that require manual or mechanical skill, as opposed to the swapping of something of value (players by baseball teams, for example).

We should all be worried that there aren't enough young people going into the skilled trades. When you have a plumbing issue in your home, there's no more welcome guest than a plumber even though you know it's going to cost you a pretty penny.

But what if the plumbing contractors can't find anyone to hire to replace the guy who retired.

"We'll put you on the list, Mr. Henshaw. I can't promise anyone will be out today or even tomorrow."

Not to mention commercial construction. Job sites require coordination among the different trades — site management is itself one of the trades — and a delay by one subcontractor can idle other workers.

The problem has received a lot of attention in recent years, but there's still a lot of work to be done.

A lot of young people today automatically choose to go to college despite the fact that they might not be suited for academics, will probably take on debt that will take decades to repay, and there is good money to be made as an electrician, mechanic, plumber, HVAC technician, carpenter and welder.

If more high school students were somehow exposed to the trades, perhaps they'd be better able to visualize a career path as a skilled hands-on worker, builder or fixer-upper.

I came across an email in my inbox a couple of days ago announcing that the Philadelphia Phillies and NEST, a national facilities management firm based in South Jersey, have launched the Skilled Trades All-Star Program.

The initiative kicks off with a series of educational events at Citizens Bank Park this season designed to combat the stigma around the trades and inspire the next generation of the labor force. High schoolers will learn the intricacies of stadium operations, covering aspects from HVAC and groundskeeping to carpentry and maintenance.

"Rejuvenating the skilled trades has been a priority for us at NEST and the founding members of the Skilled Trades Advisory Council, and we are making incredible progress," NEST CEO Rob Almond said. "The Phillies share our passion for the trades and will play a key role in helping shed light on these amazing career opportunities for the next generation."

The urgency of programs is underscored by a report from Associated Builders and Contractors that indicates the construction industry needs to hire an additional 500,000 workers in 2024 alone to meet labor demands.

More information about how the Skilled Trades Advisory Council is addressing the labor crisis is available at skilledtradesadvisorycouncil.com.