There is some preconceived notion that college is the only post-high school path to follow; that any other route is tainted and less impressive. It’s this very notion that makes children feel pressured to go to college even if college is not necessarily for them. In a world where kids are immersed in public education as early as four years old, for thirteen years straight, attending college fairs left and right, with parents and family members only seeming to ask and care about postsecondary schooling options, how could a child feel anything but college would allow them to succeed?
The fact is that we need fewer college graduates, which sounds ignorant and naive, but is true – not that all schooling is bad or that a child should avoid college, just that not everyone wants to be a neurologist, CEO or senator. With everyone jumping on the college bandwagon, the world is starting to lose skilled-labor trades. Not as many individuals want to learn those trades or feel that they can follow something of that nature to a life of wealth and happiness.
Jeff Quitney, documentary, training, educational, and NASA films YouTuber, explains that there is a high demand for (but a shortage of) skilled workers available to hire for manufacturing jobs. In fact, 60% of those jobs are left unfilled because there are not enough qualified applicants. The number of qualified applicants continues to decrease as only 6% of students today want to pursue skilled trade careers. However, it is important and vital to the world that we change this, or we will be out of builders, chefs, carpenters, mechanics, hands-on engineers, and more.
Pursuing a trade does not necessarily mean that you must skip out on postsecondary education or that you will be working at a lower status than the traditional college graduates. There are tons of prestigious vocational and skilled trade schools to enroll in that teach the abilities necessary to understand what employers are looking for in your particular area of expertise. Also, because there are fewer workers willing to act as our welders and skilled workers, the pay is actually not much different, and actually better in some cases. For instance, according to Indeed.com, a journalist makes, on average, $40K a year. That’s not to say, however, that a writer does not have the potential to make upwards of $100K a year – it just varies on the position, location, and drive of the person. In the same instance, a welder, according to ProfoundlyDisconnected.com, on average, makes $35K a year, but depending on the employer and location (i.e. a traveling industrial pipe welder or military support welder) could make between $50K and $200K a year.
In addition to myth busting the salary of welding, this particular expertise, and other skilled labor jobs have proved capable of fulfilling dreams, ambitions, and life goals beyond melting metals together. Just as a journalist job might offer the chance to travel and meet incredible people, a welding job offers just the same, with less caffeine abuse. Traveling welders that aid in war efforts, technological efforts, and entertainment efforts might find themselves (respectively) in the Middle East, in outer space, or on a cruise ship for the duration of the position. These are not simply factory jobs! They are meant for people of skill with unique passions beyond traditional college. Finally, it seems the United States is hopping on the bandwagon of skilled labor jobs and pursuing the various advantages and opportunities they have to offer.
Other countries tend to explore skilled labor jobs more than Americans have in recent years. For instance, Sweden highly values learning a trade. According to Sweden.se, their schooling is set up differently so that, basically after ninth grade, a student can choose to follow prep for university (for free!) or students can follow a vocational school pathway to learn a trade. Twelve out of the eighteen regular national programs are vocational. Furthermore, in comparison to the United States on OECDBetterLifeIndex.org, Swedish people who are primarily vocationally trained, get more out of their educations, thrive in their communities, support networks, and environments, are healthier, safer, more satisfied with their lives, and have a significantly better work-life balance.
Very simply, the United States desperately needs skilled labor workers and will pay a lot for them. Clearly, there are a lot of myths about the success of vocational schooling and life fulfillment associated with workers of expertise. Hopefully some of these myths will be dispelled in the near future so that whatever path high school graduates may take, they can feel and be successful!