Trades deserve attention from new graduates

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.

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Many overlook trades as viable career prospect

Day by day

Many overlook trades as viable career prospect

By LIZ THOMPSON

February 9, 2016

ThisWeekNews

“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.