Our Teens Need To Know That Trade Jobs Are Sitting Empty

I talk with a lot of moms about how hard it is to find a good handyman, plumber, or someone who can come and service their riding lawn mower. When we actually get someone who can do the work, they are booked so far out that we have to wait months to get our repairs done.

man working on telephone lines
Skilled jobs are going unfilled. (Pexels @kellyLacy)

It’s hard to find skilled workers

Some of us have partners who are handy, but who simply don’t have the time to tackle any more projects. And, some of us are single moms who have neither the skill nor the time to learn how to fix a dishwasher (yes, we know you can Google anything but who has time for that). We have other things that need tending and we need a working dishwasher like, yesterday.

I know a plumber who can well afford to pay a good salary to an employee, if he could only find a worker to fit the bill. He’s been desperate for years to find someone skilled enough to help him, with no luck. In the meantime, he’s turning customers away because he only has so many hands. People can’t wait a year to have a faucet or toilet replaced. They need it done when they call.

NPR reports that,

While a shortage of workers is pushing wages higher in the skilled trades, the financial return from a bachelor’s degree is softening, even as the price — and the average debt into which it plunges students — keeps going up.

If you ask me, that’s a lot of missed opportunities most teens aren’t even considering.

According to NPR  part of the reason for this is that parents have tied their child’s success to getting a traditional 4-year degree. Most parents haven’t even considered a different paradigm, one in which shortages in the trades means that your kids can learn a valuable skill that affords them less debt, better pay, and an overall better quality of life.

The Associated General Contractors of America has reported that 70% of construction companies nationwide are struggling to find enough workers. Seventy percent sounds like job security to me.

We need to tell our kids about ALL the paths to success

We hear countless success stories of children who get accepted into college and going on to pursue their dream career. This is all wonderful, of course. And while I’m not trying to take anything away from these families who have worked hard, I have to wonder about the teens who don’t want to go to a traditional 4-year college.

What about the kids who can’t keep their grades up and get kicked out freshman year of college because they are just done with that type of learning? What about the kids who really don’t want to attend college but are afraid to go against the grain because no one is talking about becoming a machinist, an ironworker, or a massage therapist?

We just don’t hear about optionality for post high school careers often enough. We don’t hear about different kinds of success stories enough. Many of us have been hard-wired to believe that true success only comes in the form of a Bachelor’s Degree. We need to start sharing a different kind of story. We need to let our kids know that whatever path they choose is fine as long as it makes them feel fulfilled, even if it doesn’t match what the majority of their peers are doing.

Grown and Flown decided to explore some of the alternate paths that our teens are taking:

My daughter did one year at a 4 year school, hated it. She just finished her Advanced EMT schooling! So proud of her! My son graduated from a 4 year school last year with a business degree. Different paths for every kid! Kim Y

My son during high school was in the building trades program his junior and senior year then after high school joined a local union electrical apprenticeship program. He got a job at 21 at our local electric company and just turned 24. He’s on his second house which he bought on his own…and is making a lot of money! Married his high school sweetheart two years ago and is now expecting our first grand baby any day now. Dawn D

My son went to college for nearly 3 years when he changed his plan, went to a trade school and is now a diesel mechanic. My daughter went to cosmetology school after graduation and is now at a local salon. My youngest son is planning on going into welding. Jenny P.

My son is in year 5 of his five year electricians union apprenticeship. Though he was a good student in high school, he knew he couldn’t spend another day behind a desk. He was one of 17 chosen out of 200 applicants, and is about to graduate at the very top of his class. I say this not to brag, but to show that even kids who don’t love schooling can excel when studying something they love. At 23-years-old, he has full health and dental benefits, annuities, a retirement plan and money in the bank for a down payment on a house. He has no debt, and the world is his oyster.

At first it was hard, for me, to watch all of his friends leave our hometown and get to be ‘kids’ for four more years, and he has had adult responsibilities from the age of 18. But for him there was no other path that would have led him to be as happy as he is. Jacquelin D.

The youngest of 5 is 17. Everyone including parents did traditional college. He hates school, always has. He decided he wanted to be a real estate agent after working for one a couple years ago. To that end as a senior he is taking classes at our local junior college in real estate (and getting A’s!) He wants to ‘flip’ houses so he starts a trade program in the fall for carpentry. Sydney P

These stories illustrate that going to a traditional college isn’t the only path, careers are not one size fits all. The most important thing we can do, is to inform our children that they have options and give them the time and space to make the best decision for themselves. Parents and teachers need to stop steering students in a singular direction

We need to let our kids know that there are many paths to a happy, successful life, and that they need to pick one that matches their unique strengths.

You Will Also Enjoy:

My Parents Have Always Made My Life Easier

Parents Need to End the Stigma Surrounding Trade School

About Katie BinghamSmith

Katie Bingham-Smith lives in Maine with her three kids. She is a Staff Writer at Scary Mommy, shoe addict and pays her kids to rub her feet. You can see more of her on Facebook and Instagram .

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