Lehigh Valley

Lehigh Valley experiencing shortage of skilled workers

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - President Trump has signed an executive order designed to expand apprenticeship and job-training programs. The goal is to fill millions of jobs that are vacant because of a lack of skilled workers.

"There's a shortage of skilled workers in the Lehigh Valley," said Adam Lazarchak, the executive director of Bethlehem Area Vocational-Technical School, adding that he hears that refrain from businesses all the time.

Lazarchak's students train for all kinds of jobs that require skills.

"Machining trades, welding, automotive, plumbing, HVAC, culinary," he said.

About 60 percent of his students leave high school and go right to work. Some jobs, like welding, pay well.

"You're looking at an entry-level job starting close to $35,000," said Lazarchak.

Albarell Electric in Bethlehem told 69 News that it needs skilled workers right now. Not only that, in a short time, it's going to need a whole lot more.

"Lehigh Valley is hot right now. We're one of the better areas to be in," said Mike Albarell, the company's CEO.

The company does electric installation and repairs motors. It might not be flashy, but it does work we all need.

"A lot of things that people just don't think about," said Jeff Garguilo, the operations manager, who also went to vo-tech.

About half of Albarell's workforce is 60 or older.

"We're starting to look at where we're gonna be in five years with this, and it's like, 'Wow,'" said Garguilo. "We're in a semi-panic mode trying to recruit young guys."

But, according to some, too many Americans don't appreciate skilled labor.

"It's not glamorized. They want to send their children to college," said Albarell.

That makes sense for some, but for others, jobs are scarce.

"I refer to them as the 'walking debt,' because they're wandering aimlessly," said Lazarchak. "The degree doesn't lead to a job."

Which is sad, because according to him, learning a skill can lead to a career.

"A lot of our students will work for small businesses or end up owning their own small business. Maybe I was a welder, but now I own the welding company," Lazarchak said.

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