The employment trend for years has been to encourage (urge?) everyone to go for a college degree focused on a non-trades career. In fact, skilled trades stopped being even considered as a career path by many people, and those individuals who did choose such a goal have often been looked-down-on. However, that view could need to change drastically and sooner than you might think.
A recent thread on one of my LinkedIn groups has carried on a lively discussion on the following topic: “Does everyone have to be a professional, manager, or executive? What’s happened to skilled tradespeople and their careers?”
One of my mentors and esteemed colleagues started the discussion with the following comment: “Although I work predominantly with senior-level clients, I’m currently working with a skilled tradesperson….He sent out his resume last Friday and responded to a number of job postings over the weekend. On Monday morning his phone started ringing at 8:05 am and, by the end of the day, he had 8 calls for interviews and 1 offer at over $50K/year!”
Among the many responses was the following post:
“At a recent job fair I asked a bunch of recruiters which jobs in their companies are the hardest to fill; the ones coming up most often: Diesel Mechanic, Plumber, Welder.
“A few weeks later I met with two guidance counselors from local high schools, whose population will largely not be successful at traditional 4-year colleges. However, both counselors told me that most students view technical or community colleges as beneath them. What a terrible disconnect!”
How often do you need the services of a plumber, an electrician, a locksmith, an auto repairman, etc.? What happens if you can’t get one?
In the group thread mentioned above, a link was provided to a thought-provoking presentation made to a Senate committee by Mike Rowe (of “Dirty Jobs” TV fame). I highly recommend that you take a few minutes to read it. Even though it was given a couple of years ago, it’s just as relevant today–and just as disturbing in light of the fact that not enough has changed since then. I can’t include all of it here, but the following will give you some points to consider:
“Right now, American manufacturing is struggling to fill 200,000 vacant positions. There are 450,000 openings in trades, transportation and utilities. The Skills Gap is real, and it’s getting wider. In Alabama, a third of all skilled tradesmen are over 55. They’re retiring fast, and no one is there to replace them.
“Alabama’s not alone. A few months ago in Atlanta I ran into Tom Vilsack, our Secretary of Agriculture. Tom told me about a governor who was unable to move forward on the construction of a power plant. The reason was telling. It wasn’t a lack of funds. It wasn’t a lack of support. It was a lack of qualified welders.
“In general, we’re surprised that high unemployment can exist at the same time as a skilled labor shortage. We shouldn’t be. We’ve pretty much guaranteed it.
“In high schools, the vocational arts have all but vanished. We’ve elevated the importance of “higher education” to such a lofty perch, that all other forms of knowledge are now labeled “alternative.”
My business involves working extensively with senior managers and executives. It’s possible that most of the individuals who are in skilled trades don’t earn enough to pay a professional resume writer or career coach for help, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve help and respect. I’m no good at fixing my own car, installing electrical circuits or fixing a drainage problem underneath my house–just to mention a few things that aren’t in my skill set. I depend on people like them for that.
Maybe it’s time to think seriously about the idea that “not everyone needs to be an executive.”