The Skilled Trades Are Surging

The Skilled Trades Are Surging

A front-page article in the April 2, 2024 edition of the Wall Street Journal addresses a point I’ve made repeatedly in this blog. It describes the growing attraction of trade careers to members of what’s become known as Generation Z, generally defined as those born between 1995 and 2012 – which I suspect includes many of you reading this.

Here’s a key excerpt:

“Enrollment in vocational training programs is surging as overall enrollment in community colleges and four-year institutions has fallen. The number of students enrolled in vocational-focused community colleges rose 16% last year to its highest level since the National Student Clearinghouse began tracking such data in 2018. The ranks of students studying construction trades rose 23% during that time, while those in programs covering HVAC and vehicle maintenance and repair increased 7%.”

The article further asserts that the widespread shortage of skilled tradespeople is driving up their pay scales. According to ADP, a company that provides payroll services, the median pay for new construction hires rose 5.1% to $48,089 last year, compared with an annual income of $39,520 for newcomers in various professional services, meaning college graduates. It was the fourth year in a row growth in pay for new construction workers outpaced that for white-collar service providers.

An influx of Gen Z tradespeople is helping to solve a serious problem stemming from an aging workforce. A few years ago, the average age of workers in the skilled trades was over 50. Last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the medium age dropped to 44 for electricians, 42 for HVAC technicians and 38 for plumbers. The WSJ article cited a survey showing that 94% of residential service workers would encourage their own kids or family members to pursue similar occupations.

Reasons for this upsurge would be familiar to regular readers of this blog. Besides rising pay, they include stable employment driven by high demand, and disillusionment with the high cost and diminishing return of a college education. It also appears that, whereas once there was a bit of a stigma attached to blue-collar work, there is a growing recognition by society at-large of the importance of skilled trade workers and their value to our society. Young people today also are attracted by the new technologies of various trades that make the jobs more interesting – more brains, less brawn, you could say.

Exploring the plumbing, heating, cooling, or electrical trades could be one of the most important decisions you make in your life. Want to learn more? Visit today!