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Navigating the Skilled Trades Dilemma

Ask any teen what their plans are after graduation, and they’ll most likely proudly announce what university they will be attending in the fall. It is actually estimated that a measly six percent of high school students hope to have a future career in the skilled trades. With more than half of U.S. skilled trades workers over the age of 45, there is a clear dilemma with how to spark interest in the millennial generation in manufacturing.

The Aid of Offspring

The idea of “learn and earn” isn’t new. Non-traditional apprenticeships are becoming more and more the norm, as skilled trade workers bring their adult children to work. Although these young laborers are gaining skilled experience on the job, they are still faced with the choice of whether or not they wish to make a career out of this trade.

Technical Colleges

For the last two generations, the focus of high school education has largely been catered towards college preparation. Many students are not presented with the choice of a two-year technical school. Manufacturers and other skilled workforces must be proactive in educating the youth. Of the schools that do offer vocation classes, 77 percent of students say they would consider a career in the skilled trades. A visit to a career counselling office may invite some students to consider another option.

Easing the Student Loan Burden

Student loans plague millennials more than any other generation before them. Many graduates still cannot find work in their chosen field. Skilled trades offer young adults immediate earning potential. A career in manufacturing can allow young graduates to work towards paying off their loans. As for high school grads, higher education is not out of the question. Young trade workers can take advantage of night classes, sometimes with the added perk of tuition reimbursement from employers.

With a large part of the manufacturing workforce approaching retirement, young adults must be readily targeted to replace their aging counterparts. For more information on how to approach this generational dilemma, download our guide "Dealing with an Aging Workforce."


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