Skilled labor and healthcare trades are in highest demand in Onslow

Career paths for laborers have become more prominent in recent years as the occupations have become some of the most viable career options in Onslow County.

A college degree was once the ticket to a well-paid job and longevity. With the rising costs of post-secondary education and career paths no longer neatly pigeonholed, a shorter and more direct path to acquiring marketable career skills makes more sense to some.

“Construction is wide open right now,” said Chris Bailey, director of Career and Technical Education at Onslow County Schools. “Everything in the construction industry like electrical, masonry and HVAC is big, especially in Onslow County.”

The local housing shortage has created a strong demand for skilled labor and employers are doing everything they can to fill open vacancies.

“We’re now in a good position for workers because of the incentives companies provide to get good help,” Bailey said. “We’ve never seen this kind of employee bonuses and benefits — not to this extent.”

Salaries are rising in key sectors to attract a larger share of the labor market. Bailey has noticed salary increases in the power distribution industry, especially for electricians and linemen. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wind turbine technicians are one of the fastest growing occupations with a 68 percent increase in job prospects over the next ten years and a current average salary of $56,230 per year.

Bailey said a trade school is a great option to start with a solid foundation of skills in a chosen industry, even if the long-term goal is to earn an advanced degree. Many companies now help employees pay tuition as an incentive.

“There is a lot of room for growth, and companies struggle to find good employees to stay with them,” Bailey says.

Construction managers earn an average salary of $84,478 per year, while plumbers, electricians and HVAC technicians earn an average of about $24 per hour, according to Indeed.com.

In addition to comfortable salaries, there are also construction-related jobs where entrepreneurship can flourish. Bailey said those skilled crafts can lead to owning a business very quickly.

“Especially here where you have a military base that’s constantly growing, they’ve got a lot of construction projects going on or ready to go ahead,” Bailey said.

In addition to housing, there is also a lot of demand for welding and production tasks in and outside Onslow.

“Manufacturers in surrounding counties are calling for additional people to go to those areas as well,” Bailey said.

Bailey said healthcare employers are also struggling to fill open positions.

“We get a lot of calls from hospitals and nursing homes,” Bailey said. “Any student who gets their CNA can probably get a job the next day.”

Onslow County Schools strives to expose students at the high school level to the many opportunities to acquire a brand new career in as little time as possible.

“We’ve pushed kids to go to college, but not to have a viable career path,” Bailey said. “Parents need to understand that it is a very lucrative path in any of the professions.”

Reporter Jennifer Rich can be reached at [email protected]

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