The core of FlexTrades’ business is addressing the skills gap in manufacturing. This is a big undertaking when one considers that the latest analysis shows a skills gap of 2.1 million unfilled manufacturing jobs by the year 2030.

But the skills gap isn’t just something occurring in manufacturing. It’s happening across all industries, so what can employers and employees do to combat this issue? Upskill!  

What is Upskilling?

Upskilling is a term used to describe the process by which employers provide learning and training opportunities to develop the skills and experience of their employees.

Upskilling can also be done on an individual level. This happens when an employee finds, and takes, opportunities to learn new skills while increasing their marketability as a candidate.  

Upskilling – What Does it Mean for Employers?

What is Upskilling? 

As an employer, the first step towards upskilling (and ensuring the success of upskilling) is to understand that it takes a shift in culture.

Upskilling is a long-term investment, and it’s important for company leadership to make upskilling a priority.

Employees are always wondering what they can do next, and without commitment from management and executive leadership, they will look to grow somewhere else. Need proof? Just look at the great resignation

Right behind low pay, the biggest reason an employee leaves a job is because they can’t see (or aren’t given) opportunities for advancement. It is critical that the right upskilling opportunities are being created by, and talked about, across the company. Even though employees want to be given room to grow, they don’t always know what upskilling means or how to make it happen.  

Some great ways to create an upskilling program as an employer include:  

  • Allow employees to “own” their career and then ensure management supports that while the company enables it.  
  • Empower your employees to speak openly about opportunities they want or need.  
  • Invite employees to participate in tasks or projects outside of their department.  
  • Ask your workforce what they want, what their goals and interests are, and where they want to go.  
  • Ensure that there are formal programs available, through HR or Learning & Development, that allow for upskilling on the job to meet employee needs.  

Employers – How to Upskill

What is Upskilling 

There are a number of ways to upskill your employees… or yourself. Consider the following:  

  • On-the-job Training, Mentoring, Job Shadowing, And Peer Coaching: You might not think you have the time to execute the above, but think about this. Finding the time to train a new employee when a current employee departs is a lot harder than upskilling.
  • Hire External Experts or Specialists: This could ease your concerns about finding the time to train and upskill, but it might have a steeper price tag than in-house training.
  • Job Rotation: Move employees between jobs in an organization to build skills, knowledge, and competencies. 
  • Provide Additional Responsibilities to Employees: Be careful with this one. If it doesn’t meet the employee’s desire for upskilling, it will be considered “extra work” and will not benefit you or the employee.  
  • Provide Virtual Courses (e-learning) with a LMS (Learning Management System): Provide courses available to employees during their own time and courses assigned by the company (and considered required). It can be beneficial to reward your employees for taking these, whether that be free lunch one day, PTO hours earned, or a financial reward of some sort. Provide opportunities for formal education or training with a third party, educational institute, or something similar.
  • Road Map the Path From One Company Role to the Next: Be clear about what next level work and jobs require from a skills perspective. Encourage employees to self-analyze their skills against those, ensure management does the same thing, and reward progress or milestones. This puts ownership on both the employee and the employer. Having a clear path of expectations for progression within a company makes it easier to determine how to get there.  
  • Request Feedback on Training, Learning, Development & Upskilling Effort: It might seem that you’re doing a good job once you start upskilling, but if you don’t know if the efforts are working for your employees, you’ll still find them leaving for other opportunities.

Employees – How to Upskill

What is Upskilling (2)  

If you’ve made it this far and are looking to upskill yourself, than you probably have some solid ideas on what you should be doing, right?  

Request Upskilling Opportunities From Your Employer

The first thing you need to do is have an idea of what “upskilling” means to you – what do you want to learn, why do you want to learn it, what are some ways your employer can help you learn it, and in what way can it be provided? These are all great questions.  

Upskill Yourself

  • Don’t count on others to do all the work. Upskilling is just as much about you as it is your employer. Go out there, find the ways in which you can upskill yourself, and do it!  
  • Take a free or paid for course (online or in-person).  
  • Hire a career coach or mentor.  
  • Conduct interviews with those in your industry or roles about what they do and what you can do to get to that level.  
  • Join groups or become a member of associations in your trade or industry.  
  • Map out your career – where are you now, where do you want to be, and what is required at all the stages in between? 
  • Spend some of your free time learning on an individual basis. Start small with microlearning and build up from there.  
  • Research other opportunities. See what other employers are doing – do they have clear career paths with milestones for their employees? Do they have an LMS or course-based learning opportunities?  

What You Put Into It

Upskilling is an investment in time, energy, and cost. If you’re a manufacturer who would like to upskill but still need to fill a temporary skills gap, contact FlexTrades today.

Likewise, if you’re a skilled technician, you can join our team because working across the United States, with a variety of manufacturers, is a surefire way to upskill yourself!

Thanks for taking the time, and we look forward to hearing from you soon.  

In general, there are two types of job markets, a candidate-driven jobs market and an employer-driven jobs market. As it stands today, the United States is in a candidate-driven jobs market, but what is that and what does it mean?

What is a Candidate-Driven Jobs Market?

A candidate-driven jobs market happens when candidates have the upper hand. What this means is that jobs are abundant and employees (candidates) call the shots.

What Does a Candidate-Driven Jobs Market Mean for Employers?

  • It’s time to rethink compensation. Where can improvements be made? Is company-wide compensation equal or better than the competition?
  • Candidates are prepared to negotiate pay, perks, and benefits. Companies should be willing to negotiate and also willing to concede, if necessary.
  • Reconsider the years of experience required. This invites those with fewer years of experience to apply and, oftentimes, it’s those applicants who are most eager to do the job.
  • Make sure that there is room for advancement. Having an upskilling path and a plan for the advancement of every employee is critical to retaining employees.
  • Think again about the critical skills needed in a role. Are there any “must-haves” that aren’t really “must-haves?” Make those skills a “nice-to-have,” and watch the applications roll in.
  • Not everyone is actively looking for a new job. Targeting passive candidates who aren’t seeking new jobs may be interested in what else is available.

Recruiting Top Talent is Hard

In this market, it can be hard to recruit (and retain) top talent. That’s where FlexTrades comes in. With our technical knowledge and team of skilled technicians located nationwide, we can help you and your company find the people you need to continue thriving. Contact FlexTrades today to learn how we can help your company bridge the gap between where you are now and where you want to be as a manufacturer.

Mindfulness Matters:

The origins of mindfulness practices are commonly thought to have started in Buddhism. If that were the case, the concept of mindfulness would date back to around 2,500 years ago. However, it is believed the Yogic Practices of the Hindu religion began between 2,300 BC and 1,500 BC in the Indus Valley, near modern-day Pakistan, therefore preceding Buddhism.

The practice of mindfulness can become a life-changing experience. This practice will allow you to reduce stress and become more alert while bringing a feeling of relaxation.

Mindfulness can be practiced in many ways including taking walks and even washing your hands. Let’s take the next few moments to discuss some of my best mindfulness practices geared towards those that travel for work and those who work from home.


What is Mindfulness & Why Is It Important (1)

As a woman of color from Chicago who practices mindfulness, I can say that this holistic approach to my life has been a game changer.  I have moved from reading mindfully to becoming a Chakra Balancing Reiki Master. 

I was introduced to the concept of mindfulness many years before I realized it was mindfulness. In fact, my very first encounter with a mindful practice happened while reading Conversations with Godby Neale Donald Walsch. I began to pay closer attention to what I was reading, while meditating on the words as I read them, all while being open to the possibility of having an experience similar to what Walsch describes in his book. 

After practicing mindfulness while reading, other mindfulness practices entered my life over time. I became aware of what mindfulness meant. With this awareness, I was attracted to meditation, chakras, even yoga (although I have not mastered the art of practicing yoga, but I’m still trying). Eventually, I learned several ways of practicing mindfulness as the years advanced, a few of which I’d like to share with you now.

How to Practice Mindfulness:

What is Mindfulness & Why Is It Important (2)

Let’s go through some easiest ways to practice mindfulness no matter where you are.

One of the best-known mindfulness practices today is meditation. Meditation is one of the earliest forms of mindfulness. The amazing thing about meditation is that you can do it anywhere, anytime, and with practically anything. It’s as simple as deciding to be present; meaning acknowledging what you are doing in that very moment and being aware of things like breathing. Here, let’s take a stab at it.

  • Take a deep breath in through your nose.
  • Hold this breath.
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth.

This small breathing exercise can be done anywhere and at any time. Do this six times a day and watch your life change!

The next mindfulness practice is walking. Each step you take, pay attention to the way you place one foot in front of the other. Notice the way your arms move with each step. Notice the gravity that’s keeping you grounded. Now, notice the smells around you or the sounds. These actions are considered moving meditation and they add to mindfulness practices. Other mindfulness exercises are rooted in eating and drinking. An example would be using your opposite hand to eat, drink, and / or brush your teeth.

Each example provided will allow you to become present. The more you practice mindfulness, the more you will reduce anxiety about the future. It can also help you stop from dwelling on the past.

We do these practices daily, and by being aware of these actions, you will begin to have your own mindful moments.

The more mindfulness you practice, the less irritable you will be, the more tolerant you will become, and the better you will cope with whatever is going on in your life.

Take some time to be mindful today. You deserve it!


  • Chakra: Various energy centers in your body that correspond to specific nerve bundles and internal organs.
  • Reiki: An energy healing technique that promotes relaxation, reduces stress and anxiety through gentle touch.
  • Meditate: Think deeply or carefully about something.
  • Mindfulness: “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” ~UMN.EDU

Source: Blinkist Magazine; Amy Leonard

National Donor Day: Awareness

Did you know National Donor Day was on February 14? The purpose of this day is to educate people about the importance of organ, eye, and tissue donation. It’s also the perfect time to show some love for people waiting for organ transplants.  

We dedicate this day to recognizing those individuals who have given, or received, the gift of life through donation; to those who are currently awaiting a transplant and to those who have passed while waiting for an organ donation. But February 14th does not have to be the only day of the year we recognize donors. 

It’s estimated that more than 121,000 people are currently waiting for an organ transplant in the United States. Did you know that the average wait time for a kidney is four years? It also takes about nine years to receive a heart. Everyone will experience different wait times based on priority and availability.  

Save a Life & Join the National Donor Registry (1)

What We Can Do 

One way to make a difference is by registering, and encouraging others to register, as a donor. Another way is to give blood. Blood is crucial for surgeries and can aid in saving lives. And here’s a fun fact — three people can be saved with a single pint of blood!  

Sign Up for the National Donate Life Registry

Take charge of the legacy you will leave behind. One organ donor can save as many as eight lives! Register here. 

We all know long-distance relationships aren’t easy, and adding in the holidays makes them seem impossible. I’m going to share a few personal date-night ideas to help make your Valentine’s Day special while traveling on the road. 

Why Write About This? 

Well, I’ve lived it.

My partner and I have been best friends for four years, two of which we were apart. I lived in Minnesota and constantly traveled. He lived in New York and sadly that wasn’t one of my destinations at the time. We faced constant time zone changes and alternating work schedules. We tried to combat this with phone calls, Facetime, game nights and all-day texts — the time just didn’t feel like enough. So, we started to think of ways to spend time together while we were apart. 

I wanted to write this for our traveling Technicians to help provide ideas for their Valentine’s Day plans… and beyond. As a part of our travel team, you all have the luxury of knowing your exact schedule and shift; giving you the perfect amount of time to plan and work with your significant other’s schedule. Here are some fun and affordable date night ideas (and a gift or two) to try out! 

You Can’t Go Wrong With Sweets 

What’s a good date night without a beloved snack? Thanks to new additions, DoorDash and UberEats can save you time. With this, you won’t have to order ahead. Check out their gifting section and find both “next” and “same day” delivery options. They have everything from flowers and monster-sized cookies to chocolates and edible cookie dough. Add notes and pick your preferred time of delivery to surprise your special someone. 

What is a Bond Bracelet? 

If you’re not struggling with a date night idea but are trying to think of a spendy gift, consider grabbing a Bond Bracelet. Bond bracelets are sold in pairs and catered to long distance relationships. Each band is customizable and will light up when your significant other taps the screen. Think of this as a new way to say, “Hey, I’m thinking about you,” and spicing up the way you say good morning. You can even create your own personal code to send back and forth. This gift is a great way to show each other you are thinking about each other throughout the day.  

Now, Let’s Talk Food 

Virtual taste testing is similar to wine tasting but instead focuses on both of you. Make a list of your favorite appetizers together and then run to the store. When you get home, unpack and create your infamous couple’s appetizer plate. Try each other’s favorites. Give opinions and catch up while sipping on your drink of choice. This is a great, quick mini date for those who may have tight schedules. 

We’re Still Talking Food… With a Twist 

You’ve got your appetizer plate, but do you want to do something a little different? Try a scavenger hunt! Guide your partner through their town on FaceTime and run through a checklist. This can include some of their favorite places, or perhaps you can even surprise them with a spa day. All you have to do is give them directions — the sky is the limit with this idea! Write up a grocery list and have them shop. When they get home, you both can cook together and have dinner (Bonus points if you use Zoom and set your backgrounds to a dreamy vacation setting and escape together)! 

You Can’t Beat a Good Movie 

Thankfully, with advancement in technology, we don’t have to rely solely on movie theaters and being in the same exact space. All you need to do is launch Teleparty. This browser can capture any popular streaming app and allows both of you to watch a new (or old favorite) movie together! This includes applications like Netflix, HBOMax, Hulu and many others. So, get comfortable wherever you are, start a phone call and watch the movie together! 

My ALL Time Favorite – Listen to Music 

Music is one of my favorite things. To this day, the first thing I do when I log onto my computer is open Spotify and pick my mood playlist for the day (Today is “Happy Chill” for those who are wondering). Create your own Spotify playlist for your significant other. Think of songs that remind you of them. Name it something quirky or meaningful and get started. Include a variety of songs; songs you’ve heard together and / or songs that remind you of them. Then share the playlist once it’s complete. You can even make it special by listening to it together! 

Long Distance is About Connecting Beyond Technology 

Technology may make constant communication easier, but it can also be very tiring when you’re missing home.

Take some of these tips and think of some of your own to guide you through your contract before you take well-earned time off. It’ll help you transition into future work confidently as a family and take some of that new-traveling stress off your plate. 

Spanning the course of history and all around the world, innovative women have changed lives with their ideas and inventions. To celebrate and honor them this month (National Women Inventors Month), we’re sharing the stories behind seven female inventors who changed the course of history. 

Margaret E. Knight (1838 – 1914)


Margaret “Mattie” Knight, born in York, Maine is said to have invented over 100 different machines and patented at least 20, including the first machine to cut, fold and glue paper into flat-bottomed paper bags. In 1867, Mattie began working at the Columbia Paper Bag Company in Springfield, MA where bags were cut, folded, and glued by hand. This got Mattie thinking there had to be a better way. Just one short year later, she invented and built a fully functional machine for cutting, folding, and gluing paper bags. It’s said this machine replaced the work of thirty people. I believe it’s likely saved many from irritating papercuts too!  

Josephine Cochrane (1839 – 1913)

Josephine Cochrane 

Josephine Cochrane was a 19th century socialite who realized a need for her invention after noticing her heirloom dishes were left chipped from washings. However, her idea was just that – an idea, until she was suddenly left widowed and in debt. Realizing she needed to do something grand, she pursued the dishwasher idea, received a patent for it in 1886, and an award at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. She went on to start up Cochrane’s Crescent Washing Machine Company, which sold dishwashers commercially. Upon her death, the company was purchased by KitchenAid, a Whirlpool Corporation.   

Hedy Lamarr (1914 – 2000)

Hedy Lamarr 

Hedy Lamarr (full name Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler) was born in Vienna, Austria. She had a successful film career in Czechoslovakia, and after meeting an MGM studio head in Paris, emigrated to the United States. She went on to star in many successful films from 1930 to 1960. It was during this time (and World War II) that Hedy read about enemy interference with the guidance system of radio-controlled torpedoes. With this information in hand, Hedy raised the idea that a frequency-hopping signal might prevent the interference. In 1942, Hedy received the patent for her technology. It was adopted by the U.S. Navy in 1960 and is the basis of the principles behind Bluetooth and GPS technology.   

Bette Nesmith Graham (1924 – 1980)

Bette Nesmith Graham 

Have you ever made a mistake and wished you could erase it? As a typist, Bette Nesmith Graham made plenty of mistakes but found the process to correct them difficult with the technology of typewriters at the time. Bette’s inspiration came after noticing painters were correcting their mistakes by simply covering it up with more paint. As a result, Bette decided she’d use a tempera, water-based paint (matched to the color of her stationery) to correct her typing mistakes. Over time, she saw her actions go unnoticed by her boss. Soon after she started using her corrective tool, a colleague requested her own bottle which Bette shared and labeled with “Mistake Out.”  With a little more refining (in her kitchen laboratory), and assistance from a paint company employee and a chemistry teacher at a local school, Bette finally started her company and continued production from her kitchen. With patent in hand (and a new name – Liquid Paper), Bette moved from the kitchen to her backyard, and eventually to a house, where she began selling Liquid Paper. By 1967, it was a million-dollar business. 12 short years later, Bette sold the company to Gillette for $47.5 million dollars!   

Dr. Temple Grandin (1947)

Dr. Temple Grandin 

Dr. Temple Grandin has a Ph.D. in animal science and is a world-renowned speaker and teacher.  She invented animal handling and restraint systems, including the center track restraining system, used to handle nearly half of all cattle in North America during the slaughtering process. What’s even more amazing about Dr. Grandin is she’s done great things with what some may consider a limitation. You see, after failing to speak for the first few years of her life, Dr. Grandin was diagnosed with “brain damage” at the age of two. Misbelieving this diagnoses, Grandin’s mother continued to pursue other explanations through connections with therapists, neurologists, and researchers. Without an understanding of Grandin’s medical needs, school and relationships were hard for her.  It was while Grandin was in her mid-teens, her mother came upon a checklist for autism symptoms and determined that Grandin must be autistic. Grandin went on to receive a formal diagnosis as an adult. To this day, she is an author, expert, and spokeswoman for autism.   

Stephanie Kwolek (1923 – 2014) 

Stephanie Kwolek 

What is lightweight and durable while also cut-resistant and heat-resistant? Kevlar. And, thanks to Stephanie Kwolek, as well as a coincidence or two, we have it. Stephanie began her early life pining for the medical field, and even after graduating with a B.A. in chemistry from Carnegie Mellon University, it was still her intent. But a chance opportunity to take a job at Dupont (a chemical company) led Stephanie down a very different path. Stephanie began working at Dupont with the goal of making enough money to continue her education. However, she found polymer-chemistry very interesting and ended up staying with Dupont for 40 years. During this time, not only did she invent Kevlar, but she also contributed to other products like Spandex (Lycra) and Nomex and successfully secured 28 total patents. Today, we see Kevlar in more than 200 applications including body armor, PPE, aircraft composites, automotive components, conveyor belts for industrial applications, work gloves, ropes, and cables.   

Ruth Wakefield (1903 – 1977)

Ruth Wakefield

When we think of inventions, we don’t always think of food, but foods can be an invention, too. Ruth Wakefield was a dietician and lecturer during a time when most women were considered homemakers, so food was always on her mind. After purchasing a tourist lodge in Massachusetts with her husband, which they named the Toll House Inn, Ruth took on the task of creating and preparing recipes and meals for the guests. One such recipe was for a thin, butterscotch, nut cookie that was served with ice cream. Everyone loved it, but Ruth wanted something else. She decided she’d add Baker’s chocolate (unsweetened, no milk or flavoring) to the butterscotch batter, but soon found out she had none. She turned to a Nestle, semisweet candy bar which she broke into pieces with an ice pick expecting that the chocolate would melt into the dough. However, it didn’t, and she now had what we call chocolate chip cookies. Ruth called these new cookies Toll House Crunch Cookies and word spread. NESTLÉ® sales went up and product changes were made, eventually turning bars of chocolate into chips of chocolate. Soon enough, NESTLÉ® approached Wakefield (some say Wakefield approached NESTLÉ®) and a partnership was formed. Wakefield’s recipe would be printed on the back of all chocolate chip packaging, she’d receive a $1 payment for the rights, a lifetime supply of chocolate, and the opportunity to consult with NESTLÉ® on other recipes. Find the NESTLÉ®  Toll House Original Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe here.  

The second full week of February is recognized as National Secondhand Wardrobe Week. The intent of this observance is dedicated to encouraging people to shop secondhand and donate, or sell, old clothing rather than throw it away. The reasons behind this initiative are to support local thrift stores while helping people reduce the estimated 92 MILLION tons of textiles that end up in landfills every year. These are worthy goals by themselves, but I’d like to encourage you to observe this week for a different reason. I’m hoping you’ll clean out your closets for National Secondhand Wardrobe Week 2023 to help support the future of skilled trades.

Why Support the Skilled Trades

The skilled trades have opportunities for everybody in America. Regardless of your skills or experience, we have a professional home just waiting for you somewhere in construction, agriculture, or manufacturing. But these careers can go hand in hand with real barriers to entry. We’re most familiar hearing about these barriers when people talk about the skills gap that exists in our worldwide workforce today. However, things much simpler than skills can often prevent a person from pursuing work in the skilled trades. Most commonly, these areas include tools, boots, or specialty clothing required for employment.

Where to Donate

There are many groups and organizations that will collect donated clothing for specific purposes like cold weather (Salvation Army Coat Drives) or job interviews (Dress for Success). These are fantastic programs that do a lot of good, but they rarely focus on, or benefit, people in and around the trades. A number of programs are operating with a focus on shoes (Soles4Souls) and other footwear, (Samaritan’s Feet) while other organizations will provide new work boots (Charitable Union) to qualified applicants. Unfortunately, none of these options put a true emphasis on used work clothing or footwear aimed at people trying to get into the trades.

How You Can Help

By now you’re saying, “This is all great to know, but how can I help support the trades with my used work boots and clothes?” I’m so glad you asked because I have a solution!

I’d like you to consider the example of Darnel Royal and Work Boot Ministry. Darnel had an opportunity to give away a pair of work boots and went to social media to make it happen. In doing so, he uncovered a huge need and a mission. In about 4 years, Royal and his colleagues have donated 567 pairs of boots to support 567 different trades careers.

You can do the same thing, and you don’t have to be a local social media influencer like Darnel! My challenge to you is simple and can be accomplished in four easy steps.

  • Go through your closet and find any old clothes, boots, gloves, hats, outerwear, or specialty items that are fit for trades work (and still in good enough condition to donate).
  • Do a mental inventory of your network. Who do you know that’s connected to training programs, technical schools, shelters, workforce development centers, relevant employers, etc. (Hint: if the answer is nobody, a quick Google search and a phone call or two will change that quickly!)
  • Schedule a drop off and let them take things from there.
  • Repeat annually.

Pro-tip: If you’re willing to put up a post on social media and handle follow-up / delivery yourself, you can cut these four steps down to three.

Make a Difference In Your Community

Here at FlexTrades, it’s our intention to make a difference every day, in every way that we can. This is reflected in every one of our core values. It’s my sincere hope that this article inspires you to try to make a difference in your own community today while making it a little easier for you to do so too.

Would you like to read about other ways we try to make a difference? Check out our blog page today! Do you have ideas on how we can help? Send them to our Writing Team, and you might be reading about your idea in our next blog article.