Skilled Trades: Education
New Educational Priorities Needed
The time has definitely come to take a hard look our educational priorities in America. Why? Because while high unemployment continues to be a drag on the economy, the U.S. Department of Labor has also told us that there are three million job openings available, many of them in skilled trades.
In May 2011, when unemployment was even higher than it is now, American manufacturers were reportedly struggling to fill 200,000 vacant positions and 450,000 openings. Today that struggle to find qualified manufacturing employees continues, and it has become a struggle in the skilled trades as well, where many veteran workers are reaching retirement age. In Alabama, for example, it is estimated that half the workforce in skilled trades, including HVAC, are over 55. But presently, there are not enough new workers in the apprenticeship pipeline to replace them.
Yet these are good paying jobs that are critically important here, in America, to construct and maintain the buildings and infrastructure we need in order to live well and work well. With unemployment still high, why are people not flocking to these jobs?
The host of the Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs,” Mike Rowe, has started a national “Discover Your Skills” campaign that lays out a response that we couldn’t agree with more, and we want to do our part to amplify it.
As a nation, in recent decades, we have come to overemphasize the four-year college degree as the appropriate requirement for anyone who wants to really “get ahead” in our society with a fulfilling job. Yet many college graduates frequently find themselves in a highly competitive fields, often forced to take low-paying positions and positions not related to their area of study. They also find themselves awash in student loan debt as the price of a four-year degree that has gotten them nowhere. At the same time, vocational training in the skilled trades has been devalued as a second-class choice for a fulfilling and economically attractive career.
It’s time for our country and its educational system to revalue the skilled trades as a worthwhile career option for any student who may be inclined toward such. Today, working in the skilled trades is simply too good of a deal, and too needed in our communities, not to be on the A list of opportunities for high school graduates.
We talk about this more in our “Trade Apprenticeships” article.
Midwest is proud to support skilled trade professionals who make a difference in ALL of our lives.
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