Teens across the country have just started their college careers. For many, this is exactly what they should be doing. Unfortunately, a significant number probably would be better served embarking on a slightly different path.
Historically seen as an option only for the elite, a college education became more easily attainable back in the 1970s. This accessibility, paired with the impact of both technology and globalization of jobs, led to a major shift in America’s education system. Skilled trades began to lose favor and white-collar jobs became the ultimate goal for most. College admissions soared, interest in trade schools and apprenticeships waned, and a huge skills gap was formed in the labor force.
The confluence of this skills gap, the ever-increasing cost of college (the collective outstanding student loan debt is currently over $1.5 trillion), and shifting job landscape (futurist Martin Ford has identified jobs that are needed with very little warning – think plumber, appliance repair, electrician – as one of the three bulletproof jobs for years to come ) have set the stage for a comeback for trade schools and apprenticeships.
It Takes a Village
This alignment of needs is just part of the shift. As Paul Millefiore, founder of TradeCrews.com, explains to Parentology, “What we need is to restore the appreciation for the skills, abilities and intellect it takes to complete the work that happens in [the trades].”
This shift in attitude to see the value and viability of a career in the trades has begun at the grassroots level. Mike Rowe, former host of Dirty Jobs, did just that in 2008, creating the Mike Rowe WORKS Foundation as well as a Work Ethic Scholarship Program to assist individuals pursuing careers in the trades.
School systems across the country are finding ways to make vocational programs cool again. Henrico County Public Schools in Richmond, Virginia recently earned the Excellence in Workforce Readiness Award from the Virginia School Boards Association for their Career and Technical Education Letter-of-Intent Signing Day program. Borrowing from the tradition of student athletes being celebrated for earning college athletic scholarships, this program provides a public platform celebrating students who’ve landed post-graduation jobs and/or apprenticeships.
Even STEM professionals are making a difference. Millefolie is a software developer and owner of Red Barn Software. He’s also the son of a master carpenter. He created TradeCrews.com as an online ecosystem to provide a platform that brings employers, job seekers and educators together to help solve the workforce challenges in the skilled labor trades.
As Millefolie so eloquently states, “Technology comes and goes — that’s progress. Through it all, the skilled trades continue to roll forward, refining and improving their industry.”
College vs. Trade School: Sources
Paul Millefolie, owner of Red Barn Software and founder of TradeCrews.com
Career School Now: Trade School vs College
The Simple Dollar: Why You Should Consider Trade School Instead of College