"Welder is one... critical care nurse is another. Electrical lineman is yet another, particularly those skilled in stringing high-voltage wires across the landscape. Special education teachers are in demand. So are geotechnical engineers, trained in geology as well as engineering, a combination sought for oil field work. Respiratory therapists, who help the ill breathe, are not easily found... And with infrastructure spending now on the rise, civil engineers are in demand to supervise the work."
The recession may have taken its toll with many well paying, high-skilled, knowledge-based jobs being lost over the past few months. However, as the NYT report indicates, demand for skilled labour with experience appears to be immune from the vagaries of the business cycle. The market evidently puts a premium on specialized technical (or vocational) skills honed to near-perfection through years of experience.
The cycle-proof nature of such vocational skills stems from the inelastic nature of the demand for these jobs. Plumbers, carpenters, electricians, and those offering specialized engineering (environmental, transport, hydraulics, structural, marine etc) and para-professional services have a well established and more or less invariant market in any economy, irrespective of the conditions. Add in experience to the basic set of occupational skills, and their market demand increases considerably.
And in economies like India, where infrastructure driven construction activities will play a dominant role in the economy for the foreseeable future, the demand for such occupational skills will be insatiable. And among them too, those with experience will command a very high premium, far out of proportion to their basic educational qualifications.
Since these jobs do not require long duration and expensive college degrees, and can be attained by attending specialized vocational tranining institutes (it is an altogether different matter that there is dire shortage of such institutions in the country) for shorter duration courses, there is a clear case in favor of more students embracing careers involving such occupational skills. The market forces, manifested in the ever increasing demand for such professionals and their wages, will in due course of time incentivize more and more people to venture into such careers. The demand for experienced professionals will continue to remain uncleared for such time till large enough numbers of those joining such careers gathers adequate experience over the next decade or so.
Free Exchange points to a "rigidity premium" associated with such professions, since workers who entrench themselves in these specialized skills find it difficult to find alternative employment opportunities in the unforeseen event of a disruptive change that undermines their professions. It writes that this is "a strong disincentive to attempt to develop the experience that is now so valued... employers of experienced workers... have to compensate their employees for the fact that their skills do not readily translate into alternative employment options".