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Why Skilled Trades Are on the Rise

As many of us know, there has been a real issue with getting skilled trade positions filled for quite some time now.  Not that long ago our children were learning trade jobs in school with welding, cooking, woodworking, mechanics, and other classes that focused on those skills.  There was a huge shift with going away from “blue collar” jobs and focusing more on technology and professional careers instead. That focus was not created by just the school curriculums, but parents as well.  College is the first thing that is discussed with children without exploring all other possibilities. 

We can’t blame the parents for this thought.  As a parent myself with a college student, I want what is best for her.  I also have been trained to think that college is the way to go, and that it is the best decision for everyone.  After taking a closer look into this way of thinking, I discovered that 70% of college students in the US end up with $30,000-$40,000 debt the moment they graduate.  That is only after a bachelor’s degree, not including any other post schooling such as master’s degree or PhD. Now they have added pressure of finding a job as soon as possible to help pay for this debt.  A large percentage of graduates from a four-year college do not attain a position that can help with this.  Most of the jobs they are qualified for are the same jobs that can be attained by a person with just a high school degree.  Not what we as parents want to hear. That is a lot of time and money invested towards something that does not have a great return on investment in the beginning.  

There is a shortage of skilled trade workers everywhere.  Living in Ohio, we are not seeing anything different. The baby boomers that filled a lot of these positions are retiring.  Many small businesses that fuel our economy are having a problem finding qualified workers that have the skills that are required to fill these positions.  So why not investigate what it will take for young high school graduates to be able to help fill these jobs? There are a lot of benefits to this, and I was surprised myself with what I learned.

Skilled trade jobs pay very well.  Better than what I had imagined. The average yearly salary in the first year is $55,000.  According to a study, it showed that there are 30 million jobs in the US that pay that in the first year, and you do not need a traditional college degree in order to be qualified for those jobs.  Take for example, carpenters, one of the top available positions in the remodeling industry. According to payscale.com, carpenters in the U.S. bring in on average $19.64 per hour, and can reach as much as $72,000 a year. Another example is computer aided drafting and design. Mechanical designers trained in CADD make an average of $57,000 a year. And cabinet makers earn about $37,000 a year. Trades such as electricians, plumbers and welders can expect to earn even higher salaries.

Another benefit to looking into trade jobs instead of a traditional college is the cost.  The cost of college is on the rise. One year at a four-year public university is, on average, more than $20,000. Tuition at private four-year universities can be jaw-dropping, at more than double that amount.  In contrast, most skilled trades positions require only a diploma, certificate or associate degree program. A public two-year college tuition is generally less than $12,000 per year. For certain positions, some employers will even provide on-the-job training – apprentices who get paid to learn. So, for a fraction of the training cost, or no cost at all, skilled trades workers can jump directly into the well-paid positions mentioned above.

I’ve seen research that shows about 40 percent of tradespeople currently in the workforce will retire over the next five to 10 years, and over 30 million positions will be left vacant by 2020 due to baby boomer retirement. Industry needs people to step into those roles. 

Another important thing to consider, not everyone excels in traditional academics or is meant for a job in corporate America. If you think your child might be one of them, discover what makes them happy, and find a field that will allow them to excel. Do they love to work with their hands and enjoy seeing the fruits of their labor? Consider carpentry, landscaping, or brick or stone masonry. Do they have a knack for being creative? Design and build might be right for them.  No matter their strengths or interests, there likely is a skilled trade that suits each child.

The last thing that needs to be mentioned is that there are a lot of tradesmen and woman who have their careers for a long time.  My good friend’s father just retired from his job and was at the same company since he was 20 years old. He made a great living by moving up in the company as being one of the top project managers on the job sites.  There is another path to take as well. For those with greater expectations, the skilled trades can provide a path for entrepreneurship and small-business ownership. An example of this is a carpenter following a path to elevate from practitioner, to project manager, to owner of their own business.

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