Let’s Talk Skilled Trade Jobs, the Skills Gap and Myths

Thanks to Jason over at Custom Concrete for sharing this insightful post with us. You can access Custom Concrete’s blog at: www.customconcrete.com/blog

Today’s installment is indeed about a hot topic – myths around skilled trade jobs. It’s a subject I’m passionate about.

I strongly believe that attending a four-year college isn’t the only path to success for our young adults. A career in a skilled trade can be just as rewarding in terms of personal happiness and financial reward, but who’s sharing that fact with our middle school and high school students these days? Not many are, and often not even guidance counselors or parents. The next generation of workers’ career path hinges on the advice they receive or don’t receive in high school.  While Mike Rowe is doing a stand-up job, more of us could be spreading the word and opening eyes to the fact that there are more opportunities out there than 4+ years of college debt and a desk job.

“Consider the reality of today’s job market. We have a massive skills gap. Even with record unemployment, millions of skilled jobs are unfilled because no one is trained or willing to do them. Meanwhile unemployment among college graduates is at an all-time high, and the majority of those graduates with jobs are not even working in their field of study. Plus, they owe a trillion dollars in student loans. A trillion! And still, we push a four-year college degree as the best way for the most people to find a successful career?” -Mike Rowe

 So why aren’t more young people picking hard hats, work boots and other skilled labor jobs?

Let’s explore five common myths around blue collar jobs:

  • Skilled labor jobs aren’t in-demand
    • The truth is that there is an ever-widening skills gap occurring in our nation because young people aren’t considering skilled labor careers. There is good work and great pay available right now with these positions, but there is no talent to fill them. It’s becoming an increasing problem nationwide. Come to think of it, we’re hiring!
  • Skilled labor jobs are less important
    • It’s become the cultural norm that if a young adult desires a good, respectable, well-paying job, the only option is to get a 4-year college degree. Skilled trade jobs are often thought of as the career track for those who might not be able to hack it in college. Different really doesn’t mean less important, now does it? Did you know nine of the currentHoosier Hot 50 Jobs are within the skilled trade industry with earning potential ranging from $38,000 to $76,000? Not too shabby!
  • Blue Collar work isn’t stimulating or creative
    • There is a false notion skilled labor is mindless and tedious work. This one makes me laugh a bit. In fact, I know of more office jobs that are more tedious and boring than a skilled concrete job. Think about a job superintendent. He’s out and about all day, seeing new sites, meeting new people, and grappling with new problems. His days are multi-faceted.
  • Skilled labor jobs are dirty
    • Have you taken a look at manufacturing lately? Clean rooms, white manufacturing areas, automation, and Big Data around every corner. You may think working your brain in a desk job sounds better than working with your brawn in a skilled labor position, but in the end every job is about working hard, no matter white collar or blue collar. Mike Rowe notes that our culture is heading down a road where an hour of a plumber’s time is going to cost more than an hour with the psychologist. Let’s help the next generation overcome their fear of dirt and sweat.
  • Young People don’t dream of being a skilled laborer
    • Most young adults have no idea what they want to be when they grow up. Telling them to follow their dreams and passions can sometimes be a mixed bag. Most retirees will tell you their success came when they found the sweet spot of what they were good at and what they chose to work hard at each and every day, not necessarily what they had dreamed of becoming. We need to think about how we guide our next generation of workers from tender ages. Are we nurturing their interests and talents and helping them explore careers where those talents might flourish? Imagine a youngster building amazing Lego structures or detailed blanket forts. Does that little boy or girl realize the love for building could translate into various careers from commercial or residential construction to an architect and everything in between? Let’s help them consider all the options available not just the ones at the end of a 4-year college stint.

For most of us, our careers will span 40-some years and 90,000 hours of our life.  My advice for today’s middle school, high school, and even elementary students is to be engaged in their search for a post-secondary career path. Explore all options. Be curious, and take advantage of trade classes, career fairs, shadowing opportunities and career workshops during your K-12 years. College may not be for everyone, but neither is sitting at a desk for 40+ years. Know your options.