The U.S. is facing a “skills gap” that will only get worse unless more young people develop an interest in trade jobs, experts say.
Homeschool guidance counselor Phylicia Masonheimer delivered that message to homeschoolers and their parents over the weekend at the Teach Them Diligently homeschool convention in Nashville.
It was a message very familiar to fans of television host and narrator Mike Rowe.
Rowe told Tucker Carlson on Fox News last month that there are 5.6 million job openings in fields that typically do not require a bachelor’s degree.
The former Dirty Jobs host said that taking vocation-technical training out of high schools contributed to the skills gap by teaching students that the best path to success is a college degree.
“If you really want to make America great again, you gotta make work cool again,” he said.
Rowe runs a foundation that provides scholarships and information to get more people interested in trade jobs. The mikeroweWORKS Foundation aims to address “the country’s dysfunctional relationship with work, highlighting the widening skills gap, and challenging the persistent belief that a four-year degree is automatically the best path for the most people,” according to the foundation’s website.
Many others are also increasing efforts to highlight the need to fill trade jobs. Adecco, a national staffing agency, says on its website that 62 percent of firms are struggling to fill important skilled trade jobs.
“Baby boomers are beginning to retire from skilled trade jobs, and fewer young people are pursuing these types of careers,” the website says.
Industries that are most affected include construction and extraction, electrical work, welding, plumbing and pipefitting and machinist work, among others, according to Adecco.
To address the problem, Adecco recommends that manufacturers partner with educators to set up training programs for students and that young people be given opportunities to work onsite with skilled trade workers. Adecco also recommends steering more students toward two-year colleges and trade schools where they can learn trade-specific skills.
Those ideas were also heard this past weekend at the Teach Them Diligently homeschool convention held at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville.
Masonheimer, who specializes in advising homeschoolers on colleges and careers, told parents and students at her session that a four-year college degree is the best path for some, but not the ideal for everyone. She encouraged young people to consider apprenticeship programs that provide on-the-job training for positions such as carpenters, cement masons, steel workers, pile-driver operators and elevator installers. After completing their apprenticeships, young people can earn salaries of $40,000 or $50,000 or higher, she said.
Masonheimer also said that while young people are often told they can be anything they want to be, in reality that’s not true. There are limitations based on their skills and abilities as well as limitations based on where they live. But young people who are realistic and thorough in their research about job openings that actually exist, including those in the trades, can find something for them, she said.
“There are many options out there,” she said.