Workforce Development Initiative

Need​ ​a​ ​Career?​ ​Consider​ ​the​ ​Trades.

When​ ​the​ ​unemployment​ ​rate​ ​is​ ​almost​ ​twice​ ​as​ ​high​ ​for​ ​those​ ​without​ ​a​ ​college​ ​degree​ ​than those​ ​who​ ​possess​ ​a​ ​bachelor’s​ ​degree​ ​or​ ​higher,​ ​it​ ​might​ ​seem​ ​like​ ​higher​ ​education​ ​is​ ​the answer.​ ​However,​ ​while​ ​many​ ​non-degreed​ ​jobs​ ​offer​ ​little​ ​job​ ​security​ ​and​ ​low​ ​pay,​ ​particularly those​ ​in​ ​the​ ​service​ ​industry,​ ​the​ ​trades​ ​are​ ​a​ ​great​ ​option​ ​for​ ​workers​ ​seeking​ ​a​ ​stable​ ​career.

Although​ ​trades​ ​professions​ ​like​ ​carpenters,​ ​welders,​ ​pipe-fitters,​ ​and​ ​utility​ ​workers​ ​aren’t​ ​new, there’s​ ​expected​ ​to​ ​be​ ​a​ ​growing​ ​number​ ​of​ ​vacancies​ ​in​ ​these​ ​jobs​ ​over​ ​the​ ​coming​ ​years​ ​as baby​ ​boomers​ ​retire.​ ​As​ ​of​ ​2012,​ ​​63.6​ ​percent​​ ​of​ ​skilled​ ​trade​ ​workers​ ​in​ ​the​ ​U.S.​ ​were​ ​over​ ​the age​ ​of​ ​45,​ ​including​ ​nearly​ ​20​ ​percent​ ​between​ ​the​ ​ages​ ​of​ ​55​ ​and​ ​64.​ ​That​ ​means​ ​a​ ​large proportion​ ​of​ ​trade​ ​jobs​ ​will​ ​be​ ​opening​ ​up​ ​over​ ​the​ ​next​ ​decade.​ ​In​ ​​Minnesota​,​ ​for​ ​example, jobs​ ​in​ ​construction​ ​and​ ​extraction​ ​are​ ​expected​ ​to​ ​grow​ ​17.9​ ​percent​ ​between​ ​2017​ ​and​ ​2022, installation,​ ​maintenance,​ ​and​ ​repair​ ​by​ ​6.7​ ​percent,​ ​and​ ​transportation​ ​and​ ​material​ ​moving​ ​by 4.3​ ​percent.​ ​Over​ ​the​ ​same​ ​time​ ​period,​ ​the​ ​number​ ​of​ ​jobs​ ​in​ ​office​ ​and​ ​administrative​ ​work and​ ​management​ ​are​ ​projected​ ​to​ ​decrease.

Not​ ​only​ ​are​ ​trade​ ​careers​ ​available,​ ​but​ ​they​ ​also​ ​offer​ ​a​ ​comfortable​ ​salary​ ​for​ ​families. According​ ​to​ ​the​ ​​Chicago​ ​Tribune,​ ​apprentices​ ​in​ ​the​ ​construction​ ​trades​ ​start​ ​at​ ​about​ ​$17​ ​per hour.​ ​Despite​ ​not​ ​requiring​ ​a​ ​degree,​ ​many​ ​jobs​ ​quickly​ ​increase​ ​that​ ​pay​ ​to​ ​over​ ​$40​ ​per​ ​hour in​ ​the​ ​first​ ​two​ ​to​ ​five​ ​years.​ ​While​ ​the​ ​​average​ ​cost ​of​ ​$33,000​ ​for​ ​a​ ​trade​ ​school​ ​degree​ ​is comparable​ ​to​ ​university​ ​education​ ​on​ ​a​ ​per-year​ ​basis,​ ​students​ ​in​ ​the​ ​trades​ ​complete​ ​training much​ ​faster​ ​and​ ​have​ ​great​ ​prospects​ ​for​ ​​securing​ ​a​ ​job​​ ​in​ ​their​ ​field​ ​right​ ​out​ ​of​ ​school.​ ​In​ ​some areas​ ​there​ ​may​ ​be​ ​financial​ ​assistance​ ​to​ ​help​ ​students​ ​afford​ ​their​ ​degree​ ​and​ ​move​ ​into​ ​an in-demand​ ​career,​ ​such​ ​as​ ​the​ ​MnSCU​ ​​Occupational​ ​Grant​​ ​Pilot​ ​Program.

On​ ​the​ ​other​ ​hand,​ ​rising​ ​higher​ ​education​ ​costs​ ​leave​ ​many​ ​college​ ​graduates​ ​facing​ ​tens​ ​of thousands​ ​of​ ​dollars​ ​in​ ​student​ ​loan​ ​debt.​ ​According​ ​to​ ​The​ ​Institute​ ​for​ ​College​ ​Access​ ​and Success,​ ​the​ ​average​ ​​student​ ​debt​​ ​load​ ​for​ ​a​ ​public​ ​university​ ​graduate​ ​was​ ​$28,950​ ​in​ ​2014, and​ ​that​ ​number​ ​is​ ​only​ ​rising.​ ​That’s​ ​a​ ​burden​ ​that​ ​takes​ ​the​ ​average​ ​bachelor’s​ ​degree​ ​holder 21​ ​years​ ​to​ ​pay​ ​off,​ ​which​ ​poses​ ​a​ ​significant​ ​hindrance​ ​for​ ​young​ ​adults​ ​seeking​ ​to​ ​start​ ​a family​ ​or​ ​buy​ ​their​ ​first​ ​home.

In​ ​addition​ ​to​ ​a​ ​living​ ​wage​ ​and​ ​accessible​ ​training​ ​opportunities,​ ​the​ ​trades​ ​offer​ ​a​ ​level​ ​of​ ​job security​ ​that​ ​few​ ​other​ ​careers​ ​can​ ​compete​ ​with.​ ​Since​ ​jobs​ ​like​ ​welding,​ ​carpentry,​ ​and plumbing​ ​require​ ​a​ ​physical​ ​presence​ ​to​ ​complete,​ ​they’re​ ​effectively​ ​impossible​ ​to​ ​export.​ ​Not only​ ​are​ ​these​ ​jobs​ ​likely​ ​to​ ​remain​ ​stateside,​ ​but​ ​they​ ​can​ ​be​ ​found​ ​in​ ​communities​ ​ranging from​ ​rural​ ​to​ ​urban.​ ​That​ ​offers​ ​a​ ​stark​ ​contrast​ ​to​ ​many​ ​high-skill​ ​careers​ ​like​ ​computer programming,​ ​in​ ​which​ ​jobs​ ​tend​ ​to​ ​be​ ​centralized​ ​in​ ​expensive​ ​urban​ ​locales​ ​and​ ​can​ ​be outsourced​ ​to​ ​countries​ ​with​ ​cheaper​ ​labor​ ​markets.

So​ ​which​ ​occupations​ ​should​ ​students​ ​consider​ ​when​ ​planning​ ​a​ ​career​ ​in​ ​the​ ​trades?​ ​CNC programmers,​ ​carpenters,​ ​and​ ​brick​ ​masons​ ​are​ ​among​ ​the​ ​top​ ​five​ ​fastest-growing​ ​careers​ ​in Minnesota,​ ​outpacing​ ​degreed​ ​professions​ ​like​ ​actuarial​ ​science​ ​and​ ​information​ ​security. Thousands​ ​of​ ​jobs​ ​are​ ​also​ ​expected​ ​to​ ​be​ ​added​ ​in​ ​construction,​ ​electrical​ ​work,​ ​and​ ​plumbing and​ ​pipe-fitting​ ​before​ ​2022.​ ​And​ ​even​ ​where​ ​job​ ​growth​ ​is​ ​minimal,​ ​replacement​ ​rates​ ​will ensure​ ​a​ ​demand​ ​in​ ​a​ ​wide​ ​variety​ ​of​ ​trades​ ​over​ ​the​ ​coming​ ​years,​ ​providing​ ​students​ ​the flexibility​ ​to​ ​pursue​ ​an​ ​occupation​ ​that​ ​matches​ ​their​ ​interests.

Image​ ​via​ ​​Unsplash      Contributing Editor: Jane Applegate ReadyJobs.org