This brief, semi-viral clip, stitched together by several thousand satirically minded TikTokers, is one that has stuck with me for several reasons. First and foremost being that this particular TikTok creator is entirely correct. We do need Electricians, and plumbers and, really, when you look at labor statistics, skilled tradespeople across the board.
An Entire Generation Lost in Too Much Information
As a millennial, I come from a demographic of approximately seventy-one million individuals who were told that anything less than a four-year college degree meant that you would not succeed in life. At no point during my public-school education was the possibility of trade school even suggested to me. In large part, I believe that was due to my inability to operate the simplest of power tools without subsequently requiring a trip to Urgent Care. That being said, my peers were equally neglected when it came to exploring alternative educational options.
This ideology was further reinforced once I entered the workforce and found that most jobs willing to provide a livable wage required a bachelor’s degree. I soon learned that it didn’t really matter what degree I held. My education was treated more as a box to be checked by a hiring manager.
The result of such an emphatic push for the youth of America to go the college route has left a dwindling population of skilled laborers. This population grows smaller every day as more and more workers age into retirement without a fresh supply to replenish their ranks.
While Alex on TikTok may have made his plea in jest, the resultant push towards collegiate life and the overall classist opinion of blue-collar work has led to a very real and increasingly serious problem. “We need electricians.”
Is the work going to be more physically strenuous in a skilled trade than a traditional 9-5 office job? Absolutely. But many would argue that, if you’re able, the rewards far outstrip the negatives. What rewards are those, you ask? First and foremost, in these uncertain economic times… job security.
With news of layoffs in all sectors coming through every day and all over the country, job security may seem unrealistic to hope for. However, given the shortage in workers, combined with the fact that it’s so hands on, a welder isn’t exactly the type of position that can be exported overseas. They need that welder in the shop and ready to work onsite, and many companies are willing to pay a premium to get those workers in as soon as possible.
Show Me the Money
The bottom line when many graduating high schoolers are assessing their options is going to be pay. It is the minority of youths in America who know for certain what they want to do with their life, and even fewer still who work in the field they went to school for. When money plays such a huge factor in the decision-making process, it is impossible to deny the benefits of trade school.
College tuition has skyrocketed faster than the overall inflation rate to round out prices that make even the most financially secure cringe in agony.
Given that most trade school programs are two years versus four, that’s already half the cost in time and money. Even further though, trade schools are cheaper per year than a traditional university, further cutting those financial hardships. Student loan debt, anyone?
The Education Data Initiative estimates that the average college student builds up over $30k in debt whether they graduate or not. Keeping that in mind, the average cost to obtain a degree from most trade schools is $33,000 with the average cost for a bachelor’s degree pricing in at roughly $132,000.
Already, we’re looking at a $100,000 incentive to go into a trade rather than pursue a more “traditional” role in corporate America. Assuming you chose a life as a machinist over life at a desk, who would your competition be?
Roughly 66% of high school graduates go straight from K-12 into an undergraduate program of some sort. Of those students, 46% report that they work in the field they went to school for. Leaving a staggering 54% – myself included – to check HR’s box for higher education by achieving a diploma, but really what we have is a very expensive mousepad.
Looking at the numbers, half of your peers are vying for white collar jobs. But what about the blue-collar positions? Despite the lucrative benefits highlighted in this article, a mere 16% of surveyed high school graduates enrolled in a vocational or trade school.
The long and short of it is this… if you’re looking to work in an ever-growing field, use your hands and never having to type ‘per my last e-mail,’ I would highly encourage a look at the world of skilled labor.
Afterall, you may really like what you find!