Axios: Trades Make a Comeback with Gen Z Workers

UNITED STATES — The passage of a President Joe Biden’s pro-worker agenda coupled with the retirements and impending retirements of Baby Boomers has led to an opportunity for skilled trades jobs for young workers – a once-in-a-generation jobs boom not seen since the end of World War II.

Axios reports:

The big picture: Enrollment in vocational programs and applications for trade jobs are ticking up as younger people look to start their careers without the sky-high cost of a four-year college degree.

  • “We’re finally seeing a more than subtle change within our society,” says Robb Sommerfeld, co-founder of the National Center for Craftsmanship, which provides vocational training at high schools among other services. “More and more students and their parents see alternatives.”

By the numbers: Vocational training programs are seeing student numbers rise as enrollment falls at four-year and community colleges,The Wall Street Journal’s Te-Ping Chen reports.

  • Enrollment in vocational programs jumped 16% last year, according to National Student Clearinghouse.
  • The median age of workers in a number of trades, like carpentry and HVAC maintenance, is falling from the mid 40s to early 40s or even high 30s.

In Michigan, the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights has stepped in to fill this gap by unveiling Schools to Tools, a program that brings a field trip to schools around the state showing students what a career in the trades could look like. This will continue to be a needed recruitment tool as the skilled trades gap needs to be filled.

Axios continued:

The labor shortage for technical jobs isn’t over.

  • The construction industry alone faces a gap of a half million workers. Many more plumbers, electricians and other skilled workers have retired over the past few years than have been trained to take their places.
  • But a shift is underway as fewer young people enter universities and more get technical training.

Flashback: The number of students entering four-year colleges shot up following the 2008 recession as Millennials waited out a rough job market and loaded up on student debt.

In the current red hot labor market, particularly in the trades, many Gen Zers are making the opposite calculation.

  • 54% of Gen Z-ers say a high school diploma is enough to get a well-paying, stable job, per a New America survey.
  • 46% of parents say they would prefer if their kids pursued alternatives to four-year college, according to a recent Gallup study.
  • Many young people believe jobs in the trades will be more resilient to the rise of AI than white collar alternatives.


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