My son tried college for a year, hated it and quit. It's unfortunate considering the exorbitant tuition at the private university he attended.

But then something fortunate happened. He decided to try working in the construction trades and landed a job with a framing company building houses. He wakes early six days a week to be on the job by 7 a.m., works a 10 to 12-hour day and endures sunburn, sweat and mockery from an older coworker who makes constant jabs regarding millennials (even though technically, my son is part of Gen Z).

I'm a proud mother.

He's only making $17 an hour but had zero experience with a hammer prior to getting hired. As he gains skill, his wages will increase and someday he could become a general contractor and make a good living building things. And he likes building things.

The trades are starving for young people.

According to a survey conducted by Autodesk and the Associated General Contractors of America, 70 percent of construction companies report difficulty filling hourly skilled labor positions. And anecdotally, my husband--who ran a drywall company for a quarter century--has had a couple of conversations with people who lament the fact that they can't get workers on their job sites. A friend of his, who works as an office manager for a builder, recently told him they have several job sites sitting with lumber untouched because they can't find a crew to put the houses together. And the owner of a drilling and environmental company recently complained that he's got no one in the lineup to replace the 65-year-old driller who is retiring this year with a nice union pension.

Wage comparisons don't tell a full story.

The problem with comparing the salaries of college graduates and people without a bachelor's degree is that jobs which don't pay a lot--think cashiers or servers--get mixed with skilled labor positions which can be lucrative. That's according to Anthony Carnevale, the director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, who points out that the average electrician makes thousands more a year than the typical college grad. "You can get a particular skill in a particular field and make more than a college graduate," he told NPR, pointing out that there are 600,000 electrician jobs today, about half of which will be unfilled in the next 10 years.

Training can be more valuable than schooling.

A certification or on-the-job training can lead to a fulfilling career. That's according to Summer Crenshaw, cofounder and COO and co-founder of Tilr, a company that blindly looks at skills--not names, gender or race--to match qualified workers with companies to fill their immediate placement needs. She says it's a fallacy that the only good opportunities for young people come through earning a bachelor's degree. In truth, jobs which can pay more than $60,000 a year abound in many high-demand sectors that only require certification, an apprenticeship or on-the-job training, particularly in healthcare, computer science and the skilled trades. "Some trade unions work with employers to offer the opportunity to have paid apprenticeships straight out of high school for certain roles such as brick masons, steel workers, and electricians," she says, adding that young people should look for jobs which give them energy. "If, for instance, working outdoors is something you loath, going into a field such as construction or a lineman may not be a great fit."

Published on: Jun 22, 2018
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