Reformers who think that students should be studying subjects that will help them fill empty jobs should be pushing for more vocational education in the skilled trades.

Plumbing contactor Matt McCormick checks piping for a home under construction in Des Plaines, Ill. (Tim Boyle/BLOOMBERG)

It turns out that those areas do not top the list of jobs most difficult to fill, at least not according to the 2012 Talent Shortage Survey by the ManPower Group, a worldwide workforce solutions company.

According to the results of the seventh annual survey, the most difficult jobs to fill in the United States right now are in the skilled trades, including plumbing and carpentry.

Engineers are second on the list of top 10 most difficult jobs to fill; also on the list are nurses, teachers, sales representatives and drivers.

Here’s the top 10:

1. Skilled Trades

2. Engineers (most in demand are mechanical, electrical and civil)

3. IT Staff

4. Sales Representatives

5. Accounting & Finance Staff

6. Drivers

7. Mechanics

8. Nurses

9. Machinist/Machine Operators

10. Teachers

The shortage in workers in the skilled trades is not much of a surprise in the United States, where vocational education has essentially collapsed over the past few decades amid a push to increase college graduation.

That disdain actually isn’t new; many early 19th-century education reformers did not think that manual training belonged in the classroom. But in the latter part of the century, things began to change, and vocational education spread in public schools, according to this voc ed history.

In recent years more educators are seeing a need for a rebirth of vocational education, but so far efforts are isolated.


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