Today, for Skilled Trades Day, let's assess the value of skilled trades, and change the stigma that college is the only direction for a meaningful career.
Historically, with the rise of cities and towns, tradesmen became valued professionals. Then, as now, skilled trade workers ensure that every building’s foundation provides a sturdy base, every light shines brightly, and clean water flows through the pipes in our homes, schools, and businesses. In the past, these trades were handed down generation to generation, with children learning from their parents or a trusted member of the community. These apprenticeships then turned into subjects offered in school shop classes which were filled with young people excited to use their hands to create something.
Over the past forty years, America has seen a decline in its population of skilled trade workers. Family businesses are closing their doors because young adults either do not have the training to keep them going, or see their family business as a part of a market that could be on its way out. Parents who have worked hard all their lives, want to see their children do better, to have better, believe four-year colleges are the only way to make “better” happen. High school shop classes, once a staple, are now nothing more than a distant memory, the victim of federal funding cuts and state education curriculum changes.
Although a four-year degree has become a standard answer to the question “What will you do when you get out of the military?”, it is not the only good answer. While curriculums and family businesses have changed, some of our basic needs have not. As long as we have indoor plumbing, pipes are bound to burst. The more we drive on our nation’s roads and bridges, the more we will need skilled tradesmen to ensure they are in working order, along with mechanics to ensure our automobiles will run. And, if HGTV is any indication, we are never going to run out of a need for skilled carpenters, electricians, and welders.
Despite our continuing need for these kinds of skilled workers, there are currently more job openings than skilled tradesmen to fill them. According to the Bureau of Labor, there were 6.2 million manufacturing and construction jobs open in June 2017, many which went unfilled.
This gap in the skilled tradesman workforce is a perfect opportunity for many transitioning military members, veterans, and military family members. There is a wide variety of training and certifications available, most of which can be earned in a relatively short amount of time and at a reasonable cost.
As an added incentive, many skilled tradesman training programs are specifically designed with military members in mind. Onward 2 Opportunity in Partnership with the Veterans Career Transition Program (O2O-VCTP) is a free, career training program that provides professional certification and job placement support to transitioning military, veterans, and military spouses. O2O also works with the Institute of Veterans and Military Families, a branch of the University of Syracuse, to offer educational and vocational training programs.
Two other excellent opportunities for military members to become skilled trade workers include Adaptive Construction Solutions and Warrior4Wireless. Adaptive Construction Solutions offers on-the-job training and apprenticeships for veterans in Texas. This program consists of a 12-day paid training period. Once training is complete, veterans are immediately placed on job sites. Warrior4Wireless, a tower tech training program, offers a two-week on-site training which results in industry recognized certifications and job placement. These are only a few of the training opportunities offered exclusively to the military community.
If you are tired of re-working your resume, and think that a corporate office job might not really be what you’re after, maybe it’s time to step back and take a good, long look at all your options. Skilled trade positions are in demand, and the training and certifications required don’t come with the same financial burdens as college tuition. Who knows—one of those 6.2 million jobs could be the one you never knew you wanted until you tried.
Written by: Amanda Marksmeier, Employment Specialist