The State of Skilled Trades Jobs in Arizona

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“The skilled trades are in particular, I’m told, are increasingly hard to come by. Electricians, welders, machinists are in high demand. And too few Americans pursue these valuable paths.” -Vice President Mike Pence at a board of directors meeting for a manufacturers group in Arizona, March 2019 [1]

The Vice President isn’t the only one to acknowledge the skilled trades shortage in Arizona. Nationwide, 80 percent of contractors report struggling to find qualified workers to fill skilled trades positions, found a 2018 survey by Autodesk and the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). In Arizona, the problem is even worse, with 82 percent of contractors indicating difficulty in hiring craft workers with the right skills.

If you’re currently in vocational training or considering enrolling, the Grand Canyon State could be a promising place to find a job after graduation.

Get more details on how workers in three trades—welding, HVAC and electrical—are faring in the state.

Arizona’s Skilled Trades Shortage

Which skilled tradespeople are hardest to find?

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How are contractors incentivizing hiring for them?

What is the impact of labor shortages on projects in the state? Find answers to these important questions below.

Toughest Trades Jobs to Fill

Compared to the year prior, contractors found it more difficult to fill the following hourly craft positions.

Skilled Trades Positions Percentage of Contractors Struggling to Fill Them
Millwrights 100 percent
Ironworkers 100 percent
Mechanics 85 percent
Pipelayers 73 percent
Welders and pipefitters 63 percent
Installers 60 percent
Plumbers 50 percent
Electricians 25 percent


Contractor Hiring Incentives

Difficulty finding qualified craft workers prompted many contractors to improve hiring incentives.

Hiring Incentive Percentage of Contractors Offering It
Increased base pay rate Hourly Workers Salaried Workers
59 percent 56 percent
Bonuses 19 percent 37 percent
Improved benefits 19 percent 19 percent


Impact on Construction Projects

When contractors don’t have enough workers, issues can arise with their projects.


Skilled Trades Shortage Consequence Percentage of Contractors Affected
Higher project costs than anticipated 41 percent
Raising prices on bids or contracts 41 percent
Projects delayed 41 percent
Longer completion times on contracts and bids 21 percent


Labor shortages, along with unpredictability in the steel market, even caused a major project in Oro Valley to be cancelled. The expansive, planned senior living community was already 95 percent preleased when the company abruptly pulled the plug.

Why? Its subcontractors couldn’t guarantee completion schedules or top prices, due to staffing uncertainties.[3]

Career Facts for Arizona Skilled Trades Workers

career data computer

“Arizona has seen remarkable population growth over the past three years, which helps drive demand for new residential and commercial construction alike. Opportunities within the construction industry for all skill levels are projected in nearly every local area around the state.’ – Doug Walls, research administrator at the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO).

Construction and extraction occupations were ranked the number 2 hottest job sector in 2019 by Arizona@Work and the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO). As is the case with the rest of the country, population and economic growth should drive demand for sheet metal workers, solar photovoltaic installers, electricians and other tradespeople in the coming years.[4]

What can you expect if you choose to pursue a career in the skilled trades in Arizona? Reviewing this data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics can help inform your decision.

How to Become a Welder

The BLS reports that a high school diploma or GED, formal welding training at a trade school and on-the-job training is generally necessary to become a welder. The agency notes that technical training can give applicants a competitive advantage in the job market.[5]

How to Become an HVAC Technician

HVAC training at a technical school is a common path to this career due to the increasing complexity of the equipment. The state requires HVAC contractors to be licensed with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors. Background checks may also be necessary.[6]

How to Become an Electrician

Attending electrician training at a vocational school and then apprenticing for 4 or 5 years is one way to become an electrician, notes the BLS. In most states, an electrician must be licensed.[7] In Arizona, electrical contractors must be licensed with the State Registrar of Contractors.[8]

Technical Training for Skilled Trades Careers

The consensus among politicians, contractors and economic agencies is there is a strong need for qualified skilled trades workers in Arizona—and the rest of the country.

The key to this outlook, however, is the word “qualified.” Contractors aren’t looking for just any construction workers; they need people with technical skills to get the job done.

Where can you learn those skills? At trade schools that offer programs like: HVAC training, welding programs, electrician training and technical courses.

Equipping yourself with the right skills for trades jobs can be your first step to seizing career opportunities in Arizona’s construction industry.

Additional Sources

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