Opinion
College & Workforce Readiness Opinion

Discussing Career Plans With Students? Don’t Overlook the Skilled Trades

By Michelle Pearson — June 12, 2018 3 min read
Male Student Studying For Carpentry Apprenticeship At College Using Wood Plane
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Yesterday my phone rang. When I looked at the number on caller ID, I cringed. As the school district number popped up, I knew that something was up with one of my sons. Hoping one of them was not hurt, I answered. After a pleasant greeting, and a simple introduction, a school counselor said, “I am calling to let you know of a concern about your son. We were discussing his future career plans and he said he absolutely is not going to college. He would prefer to go to trade school. I am a bit concerned, I think he really can do better than that.”

I paused for a minute, and collected my thoughts before letting loose on the well-meaning, unsuspecting fellow colleague on the opposite end of the line. All I could think is...

Really? You just said that?

Let me tell you once and for all, no thank you.

Unbeknownst to my colleague she once again gave this teacher a reason to throw a fit and shout at the top of my voice about the importance of trades and technical education.

Here’s my claim: It is time to dump the social stigma and instead realize the importance of these careers. It is time once again to remind ourselves that skilled trades are critical to our future as a whole, and technical training in the skilled trades are a wise move for many of our students. Why?

Skilled artisans and craftsmen are hard to find, and their work cannot be outsourced.

I am a teacher, historic preservationist, and a homeowner. I know firsthand how hard it is to find a quality master mason, to find an electrician that can think out of the box to solve a complicated challenge in a building, and let’s not even talk about how long it takes to find a quality contractor to fix a building, a broken pipe or a collapsed roof. Our current master craftsmen are retiring, and there are few people to replace them, not to mention you can’t necessarily outsource the repair of a historic stone wall overseas. Opportunity is arising, demand Is increasing, and supply is decreasing.

The Return on Investment (ROI) is often higher in skilled trades training than college.

In the world of college loans, student debt, and higher than average cost of living in most metropolitan areas, graduating students need to think smart about their financial future. Education in the skilled trades often costs less than half of a traditional four year school, takes half the time, and scholarships and financial aid are often available through workforce readiness programs. Additionally, most skilled tradespeople will be making more than a middle career educator within five years of starting their career.

There is a deep satisfaction in the ability to be creative in the workplace when you are involved in the trades.

Creativity in the skilled trades? You bet! A day on the job is never the same, and many of our students thrive on the opportunity to problem solve, create solutions to real world problems, and use their knowledge in a hands-on job. Being able to use multiple skills as well as different sides of their brain, makes for long term job satisfaction for the majority of skilled tradespeople.

When we discuss future aspirations with our students, it is time to stop giving lip service to education in the skilled trades and actually support any student who want to take this path into the workforce. It is time to stop the blatant disregard for traditional craftsmanship and skills in our digital world. No one is “too good” for a trades or technical position, rather it is about who is passionate to learn and apply those skills in the workplace. We need those skills, and we need these future leaders in these important fields. After all, it is about their future, and ours.

The opinions expressed in Teacher-Leader Voices are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Get a Strong Start to the New School Year
Get insights and actions from Education Week journalists and expert guests on how to start the new school year on strong footing.
Reading & Literacy Webinar A Roadmap to Multisensory Early Literacy Instruction: Accelerate Growth for All Students 
How can you develop key literacy skills with a diverse range of learners? Explore best practices and tips to meet the needs of all students. 
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
Supporting 21st Century Skills with a Whole-Child Focus
What skills do students need to succeed in the 21st century? Explore the latest strategies to best prepare students for college, career, and life.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

College & Workforce Readiness Opinion How to Make College More Affordable? Try the Charter School Model
A new organization is exploring how to make space for new colleges to emerge that also challenge the status quo.
6 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness In Their Own Words Stories of Tenacity: 3 First-Generation College-Bound Students Keep Their Dreams on Track
The pandemic upended college plans for more than a million young people, but not these seniors.
6 min read
Araceli Alarcon and Nathanael Severn, seniors at San Luis Obispo High School, pictured in downtown San Luis Obispo, Calif., on June 7, 2022.
Araceli Alarcon and Nathanael Severn, seniors at San Luis Obispo High School, in San Luis Obispo, Calif., will be the first in their families to attend college. While the pandemic complicated their plans, both teenagers persisted in their path to start college this fall.
Morgan Lieberman for Education Week
College & Workforce Readiness What the Research Says 5 Ways to Make Online Credit Recovery Work Better for Struggling Students
Seven out of 10 districts use online programs for credit recovery.
5 min read
Image of person's hands using a laptop and writing in a notebook
Chonlachai/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness Opinion High School Graduation Is Down. There Are No Quick Fixes
Online credit-recovery programs are popular, but many shortchange students, write Robert Balfanz and Karen Hawley Miles.
Robert Balfanz & Karen Hawley Miles
4 min read
Illustration of students climbing broken ladders
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and iStock/Getty