Skilled Labor – Viable Option For Our Youth
Skilled Labor Demands Growing Quickly
Editorial by Todd Fratzel
Typically I focus on facts and detailed information to help readers solve real life problems. This post is significantly different as it’s an editorial with my perspective on a growing crisis here in the U.S. I hope you’ll share your thoughts and also share this story with family and friends as it certainly brings up an issue that is paramount to the future success of our Country.
In a recent article by Forbes they identify over 53% of skilled-labor jobs are currently taken by people over 44 years old. And of that 53% almost 20% were between 55 and 64. Combine that with a social stigma that “blue collar” jobs are less desirable and the future seems bleak for a Country that desperately needs to be re-built.
This topic has become a real hot issue for me personally as I recently realized that I myself should share in the blame for the current feeling that these jobs are less desirable. Growing up the son of a carpenter I was constantly told to do well in school, go off to college, and hope my life would be easier, more rewarding and profitable than that of my parents. I gladly signed off on this theory and did just that, receiving a Bachelors Degree in Civil Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Structural Engineering.
You see over the last few generations this same story has played out over and over again. We all hope that our children will run off to college and find a career more rewarding and financially significant that we ourselves have. While this idea seems great it has in a very short period of time created a significant shortage of skilled labor here in the U.S. Combine this with the fact that many college graduates are having a hard time finding employment and you can see why a career in skilled labor might not be such a bad thing.
Skilled Labor – Great Pay & Benefits
With the growing trend of a shrinking pool or skilled labor candidates many companies have been forced to increase pay and benefits for skilled trades like welders, electricians, HVAC technicians and plumbers. Some companies are even offering signing bonuses in order to attract the best of the best.
With some skilled labor jobs paying over $50,000 a year after just a few short years in the business it’s hard to make an argument that our children are better off with a white collar job. Especially when you consider that kids graduating from a two year technical college will start collecting a pay check 2-3 years sooner than their college friends and start off with less than half the debt.
More Small Business Opportunities
One of the great opportunities available to skilled labor is the ability to easily start a small business. Many people in the trades ultimately end up starting their own business which for many can be much simpler than opening a law firm or doctors office. Quite frankly many of these plumbing, electrical and HVAC small businesses can quickly ramp up and turn a profit in a very short period of time.
If you’re anything like me I’ve been really shocked with the current state of things as they stand. I’ve been asking myself over and over again “how do we fix this?” I’ve finally come to the conclusion that we fix it by each and every one of us changing our thoughts on this issue and supporting an overall change in our culture about what’s considered a good career.
Help Support Current Initiatives
Currently there are several great initiatives happening to help bring attention to this important social issue. Below are two of my favorite ones which I hope you’ll check out and help support.
Mike Rowe’s Profoundly Disconnected
Mike Rowe (who’s famous for being the star of ‘Dirty Jobs’) has been working for several years to bring attention to this very issue. His most recent effort involves the website “Profoundly Disconnected” where Mike is trying to help. “The goal of Profoundly Disconnected is to challenge the absurd belief that a four-year degree is the only path to success. The Skills Gap is here, and if we don’t close it, it’ll swallow us all. Which is a long way of saying, we could use your help…”
You can learn more about Mike and his passion for this issue at his site called Profoundly Disconnected. The following is an example of one of his messages.
National Tradesman Day
The folks at IRWIN Tools have been promoting National Tradesman Day for several years now. National Tradesmen Day is an opportunity to recognize and thank the men and women that build the things we depend on every day.
Their message is short and simple and much needed. It says:
Electricians, plumbers, welders, drywall installers, framers, masons, carpenters, auto mechanics, and more. We see them all around us, every single day. They are our nation’s REAL working hands. Whether grizzled veterans or young apprentices just learning the trade, these men and woman work in the toughest, most unforgiving conditions – often, with no break room in sight!
The jobs get done in mud and muck, unbelievable heat and rain, or under a kitchen sink. The job gets done with bare hands – rough hands with swollen joints, blisters as big as Texas, grease-stained fingers, and calluses. These are working hands – REAL WORKING HANDS!
Professional tradesmen and the backbone of our great nation. And to all of these men and women who use their hands to keep our country running strong, IRWIN Tools would simply like to say “THANKS.”
In fact, IRWIN has created a day just for professional tradesmen – a day to celebrate all that they do to contribute so meaningfully to our lives in so many ways. And, it’s our hope that the entire nation will celebrate with us.
So here’s to the hands that build our country and keep it going strong. They may not be pretty, but they sure make us proud!
Remember Skilled Trades When Mentoring Our Youth
This is probably the most important thing I’d like you to take away from this article. All of us must do a better job “keeping the door OPEN” for skilled labor jobs when we mentor our children about education and careers. This isn’t easy and I use my own two children as a test. While I hope my children go off to college to further their studies after high school, I can now say I’ll be far more supportive if they decide to follow a career in the trades.
Skilled labor jobs can be a VERY good option for kids that just don’t feel like college is for them. We need to encourage those kids and celebrate their accomplishments. We need our kids to feel supported in either direction they choose so long as they are continuing to learn and become successful at any career they choose.
Set an example for your children by going out on September 20th and thanking tradesmen that you know from your community. Teach your children how important their jobs are and how important they are to our nation. These small changes can help get our great country back on track!
Great article, Todd! I love the recent boost that trade jobs have been getting from Mike Rowe and other sites. He had a great keynote presentation (Youtube link) at this years SkillsUSA competition.
I was having a very similar conversation with a Rockler VP a few weeks ago talking about how so few young people are interested in tools, construction, and woodworking. The dearth of trade education in high school has a lot to do with it I think.
It is refreshing to learn about the opportunities for tradesman (and tradeswomen) now. I will gladly share this on my Facebook page in hopes that young people who are deciding upon a career know about the advantages and pride in learning a trade. Thanks, Todd! ~~~Mary