People holding career, technical, and skilled trade educations have proven more likely to be employed than those with academic credentials, reports the U.S. Department of Education. Not only were employment rates higher, skilled trades workers were considerably more likely to operate within their fields of study.
Why, then, is there such a scarcity of skilled trades labor across the industries? There are numerous hypotheses and reasons as to why the U.S. is seeing such a decline in skilled trade workers. The decades-long push toward high school graduates pursuing bachelor’s degrees over vocational programs, the lack of information around skilled labor education along with the certification costs that many require, and battling an image problem are all seen to play a part in the mass exodus from vocational education across the country.
Various reports reveal high percentages of senior executives and employers listed lack of technical skills as a reason for struggling to fill important skilled trade positions. Companies across the board are experiencing the difficulty in hiring and retaining talent, proving to be a long lasting concern. To fill the skilled trade worker pool, something has to change. What can we do to shift perception?
Many workers in the skilled trades are earning average or above average wages, even compared to their diploma-holding counterparts. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ estimates, some of the top paying roles are for construction managers, Rotary Drill Operator for the Oil and Gas Industry, and Boilermakers. More candid conversation surrounding the earning capabilities of those in the skilled trades could make a noticeable difference in interest levels of people preparing to enter the workforce.
Jobs in technology are flourishing as the world leans heavily into the digital space, but those graduating with a $250,000 degree in arts history or gender studies may find it more difficult to find jobs in today’s market. Useful skills necessary for the day-to-day functions of society— such as nursing, computer sciences, and construction—are in dire need. They also cost must less to gain training and education in the long term.
Inadequate access to training resources is another key issue, as well as lack of proper mentorship and apprenticeship. With much of the training in skilled trades proving to be as rigorous as an academic education, it’s vital for young workers or those interested in skilled labor to feel supported. Industry stakeholders are telling established skilled trade professionals to invest in the success of their younger counterparts. Whether through one-on-one mentorship, support of group training programs, or offering structured apprenticeship, there is a widespread call for action to build up the reputation of skilled labor and the benefits of a career in a skilled trade.