Skilled workers in high demand in Houston, colleges and businesses struggle to recruit

HOUSTON – At Village Plumbing and Air on Kirby Drive, their workers are always on the go.

“There’s definitely a supply and demand problem,” Michael Villasana said. “There’s a very, very low supply of skilled tradesmen at a very, very high demand.”

Villasana is the plumbing operations manager. He started out as an apprentice in 2005.

A lot has changed over time. For the first time in the company’s 75-year history, they had to hire a full-time job recruiter.

“Less people in the pool to pick from,” he added.

One of the reasons is enrollment at public two-year schools is down 14.8% according to data from National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

“I would say a loss of about 25,000 students,” Mike Webster said.

He is the Associate Vice Chancellor of workforce instruction at Houston Community College.

From plumbing, electrical to welding, it’s one of the largest community colleges in the state. Webster says they are offering so many incentives to fill seats that many students would be able to go to school for free.

“Whether it’s wrap-around services like childcare or transportation, scholarship dollars they’re available,” he said.

Webster says they are recruiting in high schools- creating dual programs in hopes of fulfilling the demand.

“If you think about the storm we had last year when everybody’s pipes burst,” he recalled. “We didn’t have the plumbing talent to handle that. They just weren’t here, and the state actually shipped plumbers and paid for them to come here and work. I’d rather see Houstonians in those jobs.”

For more information on HCC’s workforce programs, visit their website.

Galveston Community College is also tracking the workforce job market. They have employment and wage opportunities on their website.

The Atascocita Center at Lone Star College offers workforce training in automotive, electrical, construction, and more.

Lee College in Baytown also offers several certification programs.