Taking on the Labor Shortage in the Trades



August 20, 2021

stc-drawingLast week we talked about the new Wildcat Kids Club at West Sedona School that provides our youngsters before and after-school educational opportunities. The expanded hours also give families schedule flexibility – which could help ease business staffing woes.

Now, a new program at Yavapai College/ Clarkdale is taking on the labor shortage in the trades, and may even offer some help with our housing crisis.

Last week, the new Skilled Trade Center opened to its first class of budding electricians, HVAC technicians,  plumbers and residential construction experts. The nine-month certification program is already full, with more than 70 students enrolled – a terrific response, according to School of Career and Technical Education Dean John Morgan.

The demand is there. “There are 350 to 450 trades-related jobs open in the county at any given time, and that’s been true for the last two to three years,” he said. “Once Rebuild America legislation passes Congress, you will see even more demand for these skills.” Skilled trades offer a steady and lucrative career; Morgan cites family members earning more than six figures annually.

To help launch the program, the College offered free tuition for the fall semester. For working students who need scheduling choices, they offer an optional all-day Friday and Saturday module.

The lack of residential building professionals is one aspect of the housing crisis. Morgan says. “There are not enough houses for sale (to meet demand. It’s a classic chicken-or-egg situation: we need workers to build homes, but we need homes to house the workers.” By feeding newly trained technicians into the building trades, the program may help, and it also allows local people to build lives and careers close to home. “Too many young people head down the hill to Phoenix” to find a career, he says.

But Phoenix has its own labor shortages.

“Arizona has been discovered,” Morgan says.  “There is no stopping (population growth), but we have to get smart about it and get people trained up in technical areas.” For many, he believes, that is where jobs, the money, and the future lie. Morgan says the program envisions a fall/spring cycle, but with the first two semesters already booked up, it is possible the program will start another cohort in January.

This is exciting and encouraging news. With its already successful viniculture and culinary arts programs (among others) Yavapai College is a demonstrated leader in building a sustainable regional economy – training young people for local, good paying jobs that are in high demand.  The ripple effect of a trained local workforce can lead to increased housing availability, make the region attractive for young families, give local people considering careers elsewhere new options, and contribute to the overall social stability and economic sustainability Sedona needs and wants.

As a catalyst, convener and champion of solutions to today’s challenges, we salute John Morgan and Yavapai College for launching the Skilled Trade Center and wish them the very best.  We know we can count on President Dr. Lisa Rhine to continue building the College’s leadership capacity while listening to the community. Yavapai College is an invaluable partner working together with the chamber and private industry to solve the critical workforce and quality of life issues impacting our businesses and residents in the greater Sedona Verde Valley.

-Candace Carr Strauss,