Monday, January 7, 2019

Exploring careers in the trades

Recently, I discussed career opportunities in fields like IT and engineering, and how you can pair the skill of writing with your hobbies and interests to become a recognized expert at things you truly love.

In this post, I want to talk about exciting opportunities in the world of trades. Examples of professions in the trades include that of plumber, electrician, machinist, painter, carpenter, welder, and mechanic, to name a few.

Skilled tradespeople are in extremely high demand these days, and that's great news for young men and women like yourselves interested in exploring these fields.

High demand means the labor supplies in these fields are low, and that means you and your skills are rare, or scarce. And that translates into high pay, solid benefits, and plenty of opportunities for advancement if you stick around and take your work seriously.

Why is that? Why is the demand so high for these valuable skills and talents? What are the reasons behind such low labor supplies?

For starters, so the story goes, the trades were often overlooked, downplayed, and just ignored outright for many years by high school guidance offices, teachers, parents, the media, and society in general. The trades took a backseat to the traditional four-year university, which became the popular talk of the town, so to speak. Everyone wanted their children to attend university, and if they were given other suggestions, they took offense to that, as if they were being told their children weren't good enough for university. Of course, I'm speaking in pretty broad, general terms, but you get the picture. The long and short of it is that students were steered away from the trades as an option post-high school. Because of this, not enough young people were going into these lines of work. Meanwhile, the tradespeople already doing this work are getting older and retiring or starting to think about retirement. There weren't enough younger workers to replace them, and there still aren't enough.

Now, we're at a critical point with the labor supply. Companies can't find enough skilled workers, or young people interested in learning. Case in point: Before arriving in my current line of work as an instructional aide at a public high school, I had always worked in business, and my last position before this one was as an office manager for a remodeling contractor in Muskego. We attempted to find a young apprentice, someone who would be interested in earning on the job while learning the trade of carpentry from our highly-skilled carpenters, who are aging and in need of additional help. I put out this job ad looking for an apprentice, and we advertised it heavily in our area. No one responded.

If you're interested in exploring careers in the skilled trades, here are some great Web resources and ideas to get you thinking further:

Do you have any shop classes at your school that you can try out?

Anyone in your family or family friends in the trades that you can talk with?

5 Booming Trade Careers That Don’t Require Student Loans

Skilled Trade Jobs in Demand

Careers in building and fixing things - Khan Academy

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