What Happened to the Trades?

It seems that the Millenials and Generation Xers are not particularly interested in exploring careers in the trades.  Machinists, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, construction workers, etc. There is plenty of need for these skilled workers, with employers doing everything they can think of to attract candidates. Even the training institutions seem to be having a hard time attracting potential students (example:  Auburn Career Center). It is difficult to get trades help (think plumbers, electricians) for household repairs because of a shortage of workers.

What’s the problem?

There is a need to change perceptions and to increase the value of these jobs in the marketplace.  Traditional post-secondary education is not for everyone; ask Ted Turner, Larry Ellison, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Dave Thomas, and many other hugely successful business people.

I grew up in the post-WWII era when we were expected to attend college in order to make a decent living.  My father was an engineer, and I started out to be an engineer as well. But that didn’t work out so I went back to college, got another degree and embarked on my HR career.  The kids I grew up with generally did the same thing….I did not know anyone in my HS class or group of friends who went into the trades. Later, in working for manufacturing companies, I found out that many of the workers on the shop floor were making a very good living without having attended college. They learned on the job, at the company’s expense, and advanced into higher-skilled trades over time.

Machines can and are performing many of the labor-intensive jobs in manufacturing, but I can’t see machines by themselves (without a human involved) building homes and offices, fixing industrial equipment, setting up automated equipment, etc. Not for the foreseeable future anyway.

Published by Dave Waldorf

Former Human Resource and legal professional specializing in HR compliance advisory services. Finding my new life in Arizona with my wife of 43 years and our two shelties.

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