In a recent article for Bloomberg, columnist Justin Fox outlines the oft-overlooked opportunity of blue-collar jobs. This opportunity, a decent-sized gold-mine for high school students interested in work in the trades. The biggest impediment, he finds? Our country’s negative stigma on blue collar jobs is. Specifically, our country’s parents who aren’t sending our their kids to trade school.
He writes following a trip to Lawson State Community College, an Alabama school that offers many technical and vocational training programs. These programs are equipping students with the high-end technological skills to participate in electrical, plumbing, welding, HVAC, and auto mechanic fields.
But the struggle? Convincing students of the opportunity. And ‘opportunity’ here most closely translates into the real DEMAND for such skills in trades fields. This demand equates to respectable salaries of, on average, $48,320. Not too bad for a path that requires no bachelor’s degree, right?
Tom Berryman, who Fox interviewed for the piece, knows the struggle of convincing kids (and their parents, for that matter) of this opportunity. In his own words, ‘If you can get me in front of the parents, I can get the kid in here. But if the kid has to go home and explain it to the parents — good luck.”
‘If you can get me in front of the parents, I can get the kid in here. But if the kid has to go home and explain it to the parents — good luck.”-Tom Berryman
Why are parents so reluctant to send their kids into the trades? Fox’s piece sheds light on a whole new angle to this dilemma. The parents Berryman is, by and large, working with are products of a World War II era—where getting a four-year degree and becoming a ‘nuclear physicist’ was idealized. A career in the trades? Not so much.
Understanding these stigmas helps us better understand why kids aren’t picking up careers in the trades. And why employers continue to struggle to find the skilled workers they need.
But Fox points out that ‘old-line’ blue-collar jobs are changing. Just take that $48,320 average salary from 2015. The manufacturing of today is a whole new beast, as compared to the manufacturing of yesterday. We’re talking robots, automation, and AI.
The takeaway? While technology continues to accelerate and industries in the trades continue to evolve (manufacturing, chemical, oil, etc.), the picture we’re painting for our youth needs to change just the same. What does a career in manufacturing look like? What will your day-to-day look like as an auto mechanic? What opportunities lie in the trades wherein employers are absolutely desperate for young, skilled talent? Are you
We can’t let our stigmas formed during WWII era manufacturing play a role in the picture we’re painting for our kids today. Or we’ll slight the younger generation of participating and benefiting from one of the most exciting and evolving fields of our time: manufacturing. And our country will continue to suffer from the lack of skilled talent just as our kids struggle to find jobs in fields they’ve chosen that are already oversaturated.
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