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Recruiting young workers key to filling available trade jobs

A big problem facing companies is employees set to retire after decades working in factories.

PELLA, Iowa — Even though Wednesday is National Skilled Trades Day, there aren't enough people working in those fields.

The demand is skyrocketing, the main issue is American factories are having a hard time finding people actually wanting to do the work.

"There's a perception that it's dirty, dusty hard work that's undesirable," Pella Corporation Operations Manager Kurtis Webb said.

Over the past few years, Pella Corporation has seen firsthand the lack of interest in the trades, and adding the pandemic to the mix, reaching potential employees has been challenging.

"It's been more difficult to get out into the classrooms, into the schools, and have those conversations and meet with those students and when they need to be met with," Webb said.

But 17-year-old Kate Voss describes herself as a "hands-on person," and hopes to break the stigma of who trades jobs are for.

"Girls can do this," Voss said. "Most of my life I've been told 'This is a guy's job and you shouldn't be going that way.'"

Voss is currently working through an apprenticeship.

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"We're definitely looking at how can we get more females into these roles and how can they bring their skills and their talents and their perspectives," Webb added.

A big problem: the current workers who have done this work the past 30 years are retiring.

"Through some of the programs you may be able to land a trade skills job without any education debt," Webb said. "And you're landing in a job that's making $50,000, $60,000, $70,000 a year, a year out of high school."

Voss is hoping to educate more girls.

"We just need to show more girls to be a part of it, because it's really fun," she said.

The goal now is to have people reach factories like Pella Corporation before they get into college to let students know what type of work it is, the pay they'll be getting, the benefits and how it'll help the U.S. economy.

If students are interested in trade skill programs, they can complete and submit an interest form at worksmartconnector.org.