It’s well-known there aren’t enough young people entering the skilled trades. With society pushing them toward college versus trade school and careers in technology over the past few decades, most grow up expecting to land an office job. Skilled trades have been viewed as less enticing, with fewer people pursuing careers in construction, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, and other similar lines of work. Attitudes Toward Trades Changing.
But that might be changing.
A recent survey from Thumbtack shows more young people today are open to careers in skilled trades than the generation before. What spurred this change, and what’s so attractive about the trades to this younger workforce? Let’s take a look.
Decline of Shop Class and Skilled Trade Awareness
The diminishing focus on shop class and skilled trades as a whole have been problematic for the industry. With so much attention spent on preparing for college, there’s less opportunity for today’s high school students to try their hand at manual skills.
Here are some shocking numbers from the Thumbtack survey: Eighty-two percent of young people (kids and teens) are told college is the only way to become successful. And 59 percent said they felt pressure to attend a four-year college from family or society.
With college being the focus, one-third of those surveyed said they weren’t offered shop classes in high school. This is often a teen’s first foray into the skilled trades. Without this exposure, many students don’t even consider trade school as a viable career option.
Career Satisfaction in the Trades
Previous generations happily entered the skilled trades and still love them today, according to the Thumbtack survey.
Of skilled trade professionals surveyed, 87 percent said they were happy with their career choices. Another 87 percent said they would choose the same career again.
Most telling, however, is this: 94 percent said they would encourage their children or family members to pursue a skilled trade. Maybe not the same trade, but a career in the skilled trades in general.
Why are these pros so satisfied? Job security, growth and money-making opportunities. Most pros feel AI will not replace them, and they’ll make more money in the future. Also, the ability to grow and even own a business is possible within the trades — something not always guaranteed in other industries.
Young People and the Skilled Trades: Are Things Changing?
In short, yes. Thumbtack’s survey revealed 47 percent of young adults are interested in a career in the trades. This generation’s propensity for independence and flexibility is a great fit for the trades, as is the desire to “be your own boss.”
There are some valid reasons for younger people’s renewed interest in these fields.
For one, awareness of student loan debt and makes the faster, less expensive route toward earning a paycheck in the trades particularly attractive. Also, a flexible schedule and the ability to work for themselves are major draws. So is the financial security a successful career in the trades offers.
How To Keep Building on the Renewed Interest in the Trades
As the current skilled trade workforce ages, we need younger folks to backfill openings and take the reins. We need to continue pushing for greater awareness.
Here’s how we might do that. High schools should offer other career pathways besides those leading to a college diploma. Also, schools need to do more to promote opportunities like apprenticeships and trade schools. The availability of technical schools geared towards hands-on learners is also important.
More than half the young adults and tradespeople Thumbtack surveyed agree on a key point: Better access to information and education about skilled trade careers will engage young people and help the trades attract a younger generation.
Whatever It Takes, the Time is Now
Regardless of which route is best for increasing skilled trade awareness, the time to take action is now.
Some experts believe the average age of skilled tradespeople is 55, while the average age of American workers is 44. That stark difference can’t be corrected until more younger people eschew the traditional four-year degree for a toolbox and service truck.
Source: Attitudes Toward Trades Changing