Day by day
Many overlook trades as viable career prospect
By LIZ THOMPSON
February 9, 2016
“America has a problem on its hands — one caused by a shortage of people willing to work with their hands,” says Contractor Magazine.
I hope young people considering their future after high school — those in need of work and others transitioning to a new career — know what options are available. There is no one-size-fits-all with education.
College is not for everyone, and all education and professions are of equal value.
Our oldest grandson, Dan, long after high school worked to become an apprentice electrician.
Another of our grandsons, Jake, decided on Hobart Institute of Welding Technology. He has dabbled for years, successfully, with a small forge one of his grandfathers built.
When I tell people of my grandson’s choices, the common response is, “He’ll always have a job.”
J.D. White, coordinator for automotive and applied technology at Columbus State Community College, agreed.
“If a high school student tells their guidance counselor he or she wants to pick a trade and go to a career center, they would graduate, become part of an apprenticeship program with one of our employer partners and eventually become a journeyman,” White said.
“They will have a lifetime of employment. The sky’s the limit, for men and women alike.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the trades will increase 28 percent between 2008-18.
This country was literally built by workers willing to get their hands dirty. At one time, in this country, welders and all construction workers were considered champions.
Somewhere along the education line, hard physical work lost its upper hand — pun intended — in our society. Young people likely see manual labor is devalued and, because of that stigma, might not consider a career in the trades.
The idea that only a college education will land you a job has permeated our culture. Four years of college does not promise a job is waiting when you shed your cap and gown.
“The definition of a blue-collar worker has gone away,” said Angelo Frole, dean of business, engineering and technology at Columbus State. “It’s now a gray-collar worker. The gray-collar worker uses their head and extremities to get the job done and get it done well.”
It’s no secret that our nation’s roads, bridges and much of our infrastructure is in disrepair. On a smaller scale, finding a contractor to do home repair can be problematic.
Who will rebuild the old infrastructure and keep it working so we have clean water, sewage treatment, roads without potholes, bridges that aren’t crumbling, roofs that aren’t leaking, furnaces and air conditioners that heat and cool, cars that run and electrical and plumbing that work? Who will pour the concrete, lay bricks and tiles and shape wood?
“There’s a train wreck occurring in our country,” White said. “We have a shortfall of skilled workers. Many are retired — some being called back from retirement because of too few skilled workers and craftsmen.”
For every student Columbus State places after graduation, they receive two or three phone calls from employers looking for tradespeople.
“Some are even offering to pay relocation expenses — almost unheard of in the trades,” Frole said. “Within five years of graduation from a high school career center, those graduates’ salaries will have raised $20,000 to $30,000 more than the average high school graduate.”
Amy Schakat, coordinator of career technical education at South-Western City School District, said, “When students graduate (from a career center), they have a toolbox full of technical and academic skills and knowledge of industry. They are ready for the next step: employment, more education or both.”
Central Ohio career centers include: Delaware Area Career Center, delawareareacc.org; Tolles Career and Technical Center, tollestech.com; Eastland-Fairfield Career & Technical Schools, eastlandfair-field.com; and South-Western City School District Career Tech, swcsdcareertech.com.
Columbus State also offers career planning and aptitude tests. For more information, visit cscc.edu/advising.