So, your high schooler informs you that they want to pursue a career in the skilled trades instead of attending a four-year university. Why is the thought of this so concerning?
It’s likely due to the fact that we’ve engrained in the minds of an entire generation that the only plausible path to future success is via a four-year degree. Pursuing a vocational education (i.e. trade school) has been treated as a “Plan B/fall back option” for those who couldn’t handle (either academically and/or financially) the university route.
During an interview on the Fox Business Network, TV personality and former host of the Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” explained the manufacturing misconception this way:
“This is not about being anti-education. There is no hope without education. You have to have some sort of skill,” said Rowe. “But this idea that the only place to get the best education is the most expensive place…it’s killing us.”
So how do we precipitate a paradigm shift in the perception society has about the skilled trades? A good start is by debunking some of the biggest myths about it.
Myth #1: Skilled trades don’t pay well – high-paying jobs require a four-year degree
Truth: Many skilled trades pay more per hour than jobs that require a four-year degree – and that’s not even taking into account the amount of debt the average college student is saddled with upon graduation.
Conversely, many jobs in the skilled trades offer paid, on-the-job training that allows workers to earn a decent living right out of the gate, without having to go into debt.
Take a look at these comparisons to discover the real story on the earning power of a career in the skilled trades (stats provided by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics):
- Carpenters make $22.40 per hour on average compared to an average $14.16 per hour pay for head bank tellers
- HVAC service technicians make $22.89 per hour on average compared to an average $13.72 per hour pay for hospital orderlies/nursing assistants
- Electricians make $26.53 per hour on average compared to an average $24.18 per hour pay for real estate agents
- Machinery Mechanics and Millwrights make $24.82 per hour compared to an aver3age $11.94 per hour pay for hairdressers/barbers
- Plumbers make $25.92 per hour on average compared to an average $23.79 per hour pay for social workers
Myth #2: Skilled trade jobs are for those who did NOT get good grades in high school
Truth: The reality is that skilled trades require individuals to have a strong academic foundation in reading, writing, math, and science. Those working in skilled trades are no less intelligent than attorneys or physicians. They’re just as smart but in a different way.
Think of it like this: would you want a carpenter who doesn’t know anything about geometry building your house? Or an electrician installing your factory’s electrical system who doesn’t know anything about physics? Or a hairstylist applying chemicals to your hair with no knowledge of chemistry?
Myth #3: Skilled trade jobs are dirty, strenuous and NOT intellectually stimulating
Truth: The all-too-common stereotype that skilled trade work involves dirty, hard labor on a job site or mindless work on an assembly line is incredibly outdated and simply not true.
While there’s no denying that one of the characteristics of skilled trade jobs is that they involve hands-on physical labor, the fact of the matter is, that’s often the very reason many people choose to work in the trades in the first place. In addition, new advancements in technology are taking skilled trades to the next level and are becoming nearly as commonplace as traditional job site equipment. A continually increasing number of skilled trade jobs are requiring more and more work with computers and other technologies.
The manufacturing environments of today encourage employees to think critically and flex their creative muscles to solve problems – be it finding betters ways to streamline production processes or make factories more energy-efficient.
Myth #4: There’s no opportunity for advancement in skilled trades
Truth: The reality is quite the contrary. Skilled trades offer plenty of opportunities for advancement. Like most jobs, individuals seeking a career in a skilled trade start out at an entry-level and work their way up. They can earn various certifications through continuing education programs and sharpen their skills by attending relevant training programs. Some trades offer apprenticeships as well.
The more you continue to expand your knowledge base and hone your skills, the more opportunities you’ll have for management/supervisor positions.
Myth #5: Skilled trades are not a good fit for women
Truth: This statement could not be further from the truth. There’s no doubt that men historically have and still do dominate the skilled trade workforce. This is because, historically speaking, society has not bolstered women to pursue this career path nor have companies been encouraged to recruit them.
But the reality is that just like men, many women want a career where they can be physical, use their strength and stamina, creativity, hand-eye coordination, and problem-solving skills.
As an ever-widening skills gaps looms and millions of positions remain unfilled because there aren’t enough qualified workers to fill them, the time has never been better for women to job into this lucrative field of work.
No matter what the state of our economy, there will always be a need for skilled trades. Individuals and companies alike are always going to need mechanics, electricians, carpenters, industrial maintenance technicians, plumbers, painters, and HVAC pros, among many other trade jobs, especially as many Americans are likely to be focused on keeping their homes and businesses in good shape during tough times.
At IVC Technologies, we’re always on the lookout for motivated and mechanically inclined self-starters. Contact us for more information.