You’ve heard the advice: Get a college education so you can get a good job.
While that’s great advice, it’s not always easy to follow. After all, it takes time and money to go to school. Even if you get your associate’s degree, you’re still looking at a $10,000/year bill to pay, and when you graduate, there’s no guarantee you’ll have a job waiting for you.
Despite the advice, college isn’t the only route to a good career. In fact, the skilled trades are one of the best ways to get started on the next chapter of your life. “Give me someone who can show up on time, have a good attitude, and be willing to learn,” said a local machine shop owner. “I can teach them the job…but they have to be ready to do the work.” She’s had unfilled job openings for the last three years.
“I can’t find younger workers,” she said. “As an owner, that means I have to use the staff I have and pay more overtime so I can fill my orders. It’s frustrating to know the company can accommodate more work but we don’t have the staff. As a result, we’re turning down orders or delaying them.”
Her corporation isn’t alone, either. Right now, there are “Help Wanted” signs posted across the United States, but not nearly enough people to fill the positions. Predictions only show the gap widening. According to a study conducted by the Department of Labor in January 2019 , there was a deficit of 1.1 million skilled laborers.
The lack of workers means if you’re a skilled tradesperson, you’re in a great position to find your dream job. If you’re interested in becoming a skilled tradesperson, however, you’re in a great place to acquire the necessary skills. “If you’re reasonably mechanically inclined, we could find you a place and train you on-the-spot. Our starting salary is very competitive!” The machine shop owner said.
It’s not just her place, either.
Most employers who rely on the skilled trades will provide on-the-job training. And in many cases, they’ll pay you while you’re training. “An apprentice can make a fairly decent paycheck, depending on who they work for,” a local plumber, Norm Oke of Norm’s Plumbing, said.
“They’ll learn on the job, and develop the skills they need to be successful. It may take a few years to develop that experience, but the whole time, they’ll be earning a paycheck and be well-equipped to handle any certifications or licensing required.”
Once skilled tradespeople are licensed and certified, they’ll see a jump in pay and have some freedom that a desk job may not be able to provide. “Every day is different,” said Norm. “Even when I was an apprentice, I always liked how much variety there was. And I can make my own hours. A lot of time, that means I work longer. As a business owner, though, it also means I control my workflow…and I like having that control.”
When asked about whether skilled trade jobs could be outsourced by artificial intelligence, thereby eliminating those positions from the job pool, the machine shop owner and Norm both replied with a resounding “NO!”
Norm elaborated, “There really is no substitute for hands-on, skilled people at the job site. A lot of times, the job requires collaborating with others to determine the best way to plumb a sink or provide a vent. It means knowing what questions to ask, how to read the blueprints and even coordinating eyes, ears, touch and smell – as awful as that sounds – to detect a leak. Today’s robot can’t do that.”
The machine shop owner agreed, “Right now, we have a lot of processes automated, but there’s no replacement for a trained eye. Will a part fit? A lot of times, it will in theory but in practice? It’s a bust. And a skilled machinist can think outside of the box to find a specialized solution. There’s no way to program creative thinking.”
Follow that advice: Get your education and get a good job. The skilled trades are willing to train, and able to pay while you learn. Take your apprenticeship to the next level and you can be your own boss, make your own hours and even control your workflow. That sounds like a great start to a great career.