By Ryan Velez
It’s been an ongoing dream for parents to see the next generation “outperform” them, and one of the signature ways to do this has been getting a college degree when they could not. We have already seen this mentality raise problems with crowded job markets and massive student loan debt. PBS reports that the shoe is dropping on the other foot as well, with needs for tradespeople beginning to outpace those for people with bachelor’s degrees.
Some states are actually putting initiatives out there to try and promote trades, like California, which is spending $6 million on a campaign to revive the reputation of vocational education and $200 million to improve the delivery of it. “It’s a cultural rebuild,” said Randy Emery, a welding instructor at the College of the Sequoias in California’s Central Valley.
It’s not just about filling roles, though, as people who take these jobs may be able to put themselves in a solid financial position. The United States has 30 million jobs that pay an average of $55,000 per year and don’t require a bachelor’s degree, according to the Georgetown center. People with career and technical educations are actually slightly more likely to be employed than their counterparts with academic credentials, the U.S. Department of Education reports, and significantly more likely to be working in their fields of study.
At California Steel Industries, supervisors without college degrees make as much as $120,000 per year and electricians also can make six figures, company officials said. Many struggling college graduates in competitive fields would likely love a chance at that kind of money. Part of the issue of this is cultural perception, especially at the high school and community college levels.
Andrew Hanson, a senior research analyst with Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, explains that “You haven’t yet been able to attract students from middle-class and more affluent communities” to vocational programs. Efforts like California’s to broaden the appeal are exactly what we need.”
““It doesn’t help when industry is moving out and laying people off,” says Sam Geil, a Fresno, California, business consultant and adviser to the San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance. “It’s the relationship that industry has with the community. Industry could do a better job communicating.” Part of the issue also stems from the fact that certain trade-focused classes can also cost a great deal more than humanities courses.