Day by Day
Trades deserve attention from new graduates
By LIZ THOMPSON
Oct 23, 2017
This Week News
I like to watch “This Old House” on PBS. I have always respected people who build, make and fix things.
The show is working with Mike Rowe, known for “Dirty Jobs,” on a Generation Next campaign to fill the skills gap in trades, which affects each one of us.
To think that every high school graduate should automatically go to a four-year college is short-sighted.
A 2016 survey by YouGov showed fewer than one in 12 students ages 15-18 attending school or college are being advised to seek work-related apprenticeships, according to Electrical Construction & Maintenance magazine.
In contrast, the survey reports, some 85 percent of students are encouraged to pursue further education after graduating high school. Just 7 percent are encouraged to consider finding a job in a skilled trade.
This compares to 31 percent encouraged to seek careers in medicine, education, law or finance, and 36 percent advised to consider careers in engineering.
For at least 30 years, the labor-market data reports only 25 percent of professions require a four-year degree, said Steve Lipster, director of the Electrical Trades Center in Grandview Heights.
“It’s gratifying to see a young person come into our program and realize they can do this — to feel that sense of accomplishment that they created something,” he said.
“The word is getting out about trades, but we still have a long way to go. We get applicants with bachelor’s degrees.”
After completing an electrician apprenticeship, people can earn $80,000 a year with full benefits and lots of overtime, Lipster said.
“It’s a very common attitude for schools not to encourage trades,” he said. “We can’t get in the door of most schools to talk with advisers or students. There is no more shop class or home economics.
“We have seen youth who cannot read a ruler or know how to use a socket set.”
“Made in America” ran for five seasons on the Travel Channel. It was hosted by actor John Ratzenberger, who became a carpenter at a young age, trained on the job. In an interview in Heating, Ventilating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Business magazine, he said:
“While I still had my show … I toured the country and noticed the average age of skilled tradesmen was 55-58. I started asking around, and wondering why there weren’t younger people coming into the trades that offer great salaries, futures, pensions and health insurance.”
He discovered a big reason was because schools canceled shop classes.
Knowing a trade is invaluable. It’s a misconception that skilled trades are for people with bad grades. In truth, trades are for creative people who like to work with their hands. Tradespeople need strong skills in reading, writing, math and science.
All careers are valuable. We want doctors, lawyers, teachers and others to have a college education.
What’s missing is the balance of people who build our infrastructure and keep it working — electrical, roadways, airports, water systems and sanitation, telecommunications and energy — and those who provide services, such as chefs, mechanics, dental technicians and beauticians.
Lipster said parents are starting to accept and understand the need. The onus of college debt is helping to swing the pendulum.
The Electrical Trades Center also offers a preapprenticeship that is less intense, in which students can learn if a skill suits them. It also teaches them work ethics for sustaining employment.
“We have students biking from the airport area to come to classes here on Goodale Boulevard. They are never late and work hard,” Lipster said.
“It’s hard to express the self-satisfaction of a job well done — a sense that all craftspeople contribute to society,” he said.
The center partners with Columbus State Community College and Franklin University — which also offer training in trades — and with local, regional and national organizations.
One way to set up our youth for success is to give them all the options for careers, including the skilled-trades route — built by tradespeople.