Over the last 30 years, our society convinced itself that the best path to a successful career is an expensive, four-year degree.Pop culture has hyped up the “corner office job” at the expense of the jobs that helped build the corner office. As a result, our society has devalued and discouraged any other path to success and happiness. Well-meaning parents and guidance counselors have labeled community colleges, trade schools, and apprenticeship programs as “alternative” and “vocational consolation prizes”. Students are taught that these are best suited for those not cut out for a four-year degree. The push for higher education has coincided with the removal of vocational arts from high schools nationwide. And the effects of this one-two punch have laid the foundation for a widening skills gap and massive student loan debt.
Today, the skills gap is wider than it’s ever been. The cost of college tuition has soared and student loan debt is the second highest consumer debt category in the United States. We are lending money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back, educating them for jobs they can no longer find, while discouraging them from pursuing good jobs that actually exist. Slowly but surely our society is reaffirming the misguided belief that a career in the skilled trades shouldn’t be desired.
How do we change this prevailing misperception of skilled labor?
We need to make skilled work cool again. In order to close the skills gap we must challenge the stigmas and stereotypes that discourage people from pursuing the millions of available jobs. One of the biggest misperceptions of a job in the trades is lousy pay. What people don’t realize is these are good paying jobs with loads of growth potential. Some technicians can make north of six figures, and many go on to run their own businesses. But we rarely hear those stories in the press. Instead, we get studies that try to justify the cost of college.
Mike Rowe is a television host on the series “Dirty Jobs”. Since 2008, he has been working to bring awareness of the value of work and has advocated for skilled trades. Rowe refers to one study that compared the income of college graduates with the income of non-college graduates. The study obviously concluded that college graduates made more. But the study didn’t compare skilled tradespeople to college graduates – it compared everyone to college graduates – including those with no skill. In other words, they put high school dropouts and unskilled workers into the same category as skilled tradespeople. If you dig a little deeper, and compare the income of a philosophy major, (or a history major, or a sociology major, or a math major) to that of an HVAC tech, or a plumber, or an elevator mechanic, you’ll see that the trades pay a very competitive wage – without the debt of a four-year degree.
Mike Rowe is on a mission: “To help close the skills gap by challenging the stigmas and stereotypes that discourage people from pursuing the millions of available jobs. We’re redefining the definition of a good education and a good job, because we don’t think a four-year degree is the best path for most people.” He continues, “Our crumbling infrastructure, our widening skills gap, the disappearance of vocational education, and the stratospheric rise in college tuition—these are not problems,” Mike said. “These are symptoms of what we value. And right now, we have to reconnect the average American with the value of a skilled workforce. Only then, will the next generation aspire to do the work at hand.”
When we do see young people entering the skilled trades, it is often by way of the family business. This new generation of skilled tradespeople are looking for ways to modernize the business and make it more desirable for their peers. An end-to-end field service software can help you attract and retain top, new talent (aside from your son and son-in-law).