Encouraging our Youth to Pursue a Career in the Trades

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Our Youth in the Trades

Is a College Education the Right Path?

As a parent, I want what’s best for my children, and for the past twenty years a college education has been touted as the best way to guarantee a well-paying job and good quality of life.  In 2012 college graduates over 25 years old earned 25% more than the median average wage worker according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  Naturally, as a father of three, I should come to the conclusion that a college degree will mean my children will make a decent living and not break their backs doing it.  And as a father, I’ll do whatever is needed to make sure they can attend a college or university.

Our Youth in the Trades

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But one statistic isn’t enough to base your child’s future on.  We’ve been reminded time-and-time again that college doesn’t ensure employment, nor especially a well-paying job. Also according to the BLS, only 72.6% of recent college grads were employed and over a quarter-million Americans with a Bachelor degree or higher are working in minimum wage jobs.  The overwhelming cost of college has left our children with more debt than they are ready to handle.  Since 1988 college tuition and fees have more than doubled compared to 2011, according to a recent CNN story.  On top of this, the college and university system has been routinely criticized for their inability to prepare our children for the complicated “real world.”

What About a Trade Education?

So why is it that we as a society continue to heard our children into a system that we know is expensive, unproductive, and doesn’t guarantee a good, stable job?  Personally, I believe society is to blame. Our perceptions of manual labor, blue-collar jobs and trade schools have become toxic in our society.  Why aren’t we engaging our youth in the trades?

Our Youth in the Trades

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The expectation that everyone in each subsequent future generation should go to college is just plain foolish.  Equally foolish is the idea that laborers or blue collar workers cannot be intelligent or successful. Two of my newest employees are college educated, so obviously they were intelligent enough to complete the requirements for their degrees (and I think they could obtain advanced degrees if they wanted). Instead they chose to enter careers in the trades, where their hard work and motivation will help them succeed.

Do What You Love

My two new crew members left their previous jobs to find a more satisfying career that “makes them happy.”  This idea that working in the trades brings a greater sense of fulfilment to employees is not unique to A Concord Carpenter employees, but instead this sentiment is shared by many trade men and women when talking about their careers. The North Bennett Street School, America’s oldest trade school dating back to 1885, uses the tag line “Do what you love” to entice students to pursue a career in the trades.

Click here to read more about Rob’s thoughts on the importance of encouraging youth to pursue a career in the trades.


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Read more from Rob on this topic:

Click here to read how the principles of supply & demand support a career in the trades.

Click here to read about advanced education for anyone interested in the trades.

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Robert Robillard is the editor of the blog, A Concord Carpenter, Assistant Editor of Tool Box Buzz and principal of a carpentry and renovation business located in Concord, Massachusetts. Rob hosts the Concord Carpenter... Read more

7 comments on “Encouraging our Youth to Pursue a Career in the Trades

  1. John S

    Solid thoughts, but it is quite counter-cultural in thought. While it appears true that in the short term, trades are generally in need for employees, I would bet the long term projections are even more impressive. That, in my mind, makes going into the trades most appealing to younger people.

  2. Rob

    I’m in the same boat. I’m a 30-something who got a degree in a specialty field (where I presently have full time employment). But, when it comes to my own time and my side projects, my joy and fulfillment comes from getting my hands dirty and working in the trades that are of interest to me. I find myself taking those things just as seriously, if not more so, as the professional work I do. I try to learn everything I can and to pass that knowledge along to others in hopes of encouraging the same kind of enthusiasm that I feel.

    I like to think that if/when the economy next takes an unexpected turn I could transition into the trades on a full time basis if I needed to. For lack of a better word, they’re just fulfilling. Working with my hands just makes me happy, and the finished product is very tangible, regardless of monitary factors. Of course, it helps that working with my hands also seems to improve my focus at my day job. It’s a win-win and I’m thankful that I enjoy my work, whether it’s the full-time stuff or the part-time stuff.

    I wish I’d had the opportunities for more formal trade/technical eduction earlier on, but learning by experience suits me just fine and seeing similarities and overlap between trades simplifies filling in the knowledge gaps. I plan on encouraging any future children to explore the trades, even if they don’t end up making a career of them. I believe that it is vital knowledge to be exposed to.

    Thanks for the write-up, Rob… good stuff!

    1. Matthew

      Rob, I feel the same way as you. I have two degrees and I loved learning the information and that type of work but I ended up going into working at a Christian Summer camp and started to learn how to do everything from electric to plumbing to framing etc. I wished I had (or would have earlier) more formal training in the trades. It is so satisfying building something and creating something that I did myself.

      I have started to encourage young adults pursue the trades route.

  3. Brent Mills

    I think the real problem is we need to teach the up coming generation to work safely and efficiently as well as do the job right I was invited to a local earth moving equipment school and watched as several of the class were having problems keeping up to the rest on an excavator I am fortunate with 44 years of self tough experience and the school of hard knocks behind me I picked them out quick and took them aside on an other older machine I put the worst case in right off and only gave him 1/4 throttle now dig as fast as you can at this throttle setting he was on to it in no time I went to the next and so on then gave them 1/2 throttle then 3/4 and let them all get smooth as they could all got over there problem of jerking and banging the machine around quickly .Later the head instructor hauled me in the class room with all and said why do you do it like that. Well I told him if you cant get smooth first at operating a machine you won’t get fast you are no good to any employer I don’t care if it is an excavator a dozer or a hammer if you aren’t in control of that machine you wont be on my job site long .We have to teach get good first then find your efficient point it just makes good safe and later efficient job site sense Lets take a greater level of patience and teach the next generation right

  4. Robert Robillard Post author

    Rob – Working with my hands just makes me happy, and the finished product is very tangible, regardless of monitary factors. I couldn’t agree more and only take exception with the last part. There is money to be made. You need to work for yourself to do it but it’s out there.

    Matthew – any takers?

    Brent – we need more mentors like you in the trades!!

    Thanks for the comments guys – ROB

  5. Tyler

    I am trying to get my little cousins in to liking the trade they are 4,5and6 so I’m starting them young by letting them help me when we are working on my uncials house and let in them try to put in nails and screws.

  6. Joe

    I have been around the siding industry all my life because my dad started a company and has been running it my whole life. I am finally getting into carpentry on my own, I am very excited to start and have it benefit me for the rest of my life!

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