Defending The Trades

April 12, 2016

Take pride in what you aspire to be

In my last article I described a conversation I once had with an affluent suburban mother whose son was interested in an HVAC career. She knew nothing about the field and contacted me when I was a trade magazine editor who had written about trade opportunities.

To her credit, this mother kept an open mind and wanted to do what was best for her son. Many other moms from her social-economic cohort are more rigid. I’ve met numerous young people who were pressured by parents and/or peers to attend college, sometimes at great expense, when what they really wanted to do was pursue a career where they could work with their hands. That’s what they liked to do and were good at. Most of them were miserable sitting through classes that did not interest them, and their grades showed it.

If you’re one of those being told by family and/or friends that only college offers a path to a good job, here is some ammunition to fire back with:

  • Show them my blog from a few months ago titled “College Grads Are So Underemployed.” It reports that 48% of college graduates are working at jobs that don’t require a college degree, and about one-third of recent college graduates are earning less than $25,000 a year – about half of what the average skilled trade worker makes.
  • Show them another blog I wrote reporting that only 38% of people who graduated college in the last 10 years said that their college education was worth the cost.
  • Tell them that vocational schools cost a small fraction of what you’d pay for a college education at even a modestly priced school, few of which still exist. In many cases you can learn a trade without paying a cent, and even getting paid while you learn in an apprenticeship program.
  • Apprentices typically earn modest wages, but even their modest pay is comparable to what many college graduates earn while waiting tables or in other jobs that don’t require a college education. After a few years, trade apprentices see their incomes double or more when they become full-fledged skilled trade workers.
  • Many top-notch skilled trade workers earn six-figure annual incomes and some end up quite wealthy after opening their own business.
  • A need will always exist for skilled plumbers, electricians, HVAC technicians, etc. Skilled trade work will always be in demand, and it cannot be outsourced nor replaced by machines.

I’ll have more to say about the latter in my next blog.