Note: This is Part 3 of a 5-Part series on why high school graduates should skip college. The idea is to present ideas to high-school and college-aged students who may be looking for an alternative to a 4 year university. If this is not you, that’s cool. Please read on. I think there is an argument worth hearing if you are interested.


“If you teach a man anything, he will never learn.”

Charles Bernard Shaw


This is gonna be easy. 

“Winston, hold my coat while I go handle dis’ light work.” 


The Most In-Demand Jobs Right Now


Every year, The Manpower Group, the world’s leader in helping companies find workers, puts together an annual study on the talent shortage globally.

And for the past 6 years, the same group of jobs has had the highest demand worldwide.

It is the same job group that was the highest in-demand in 2017-2018 in the United States. 

Skilled labor.

Electricians, carpenters, plumbers, technicians, mechanics…. We need em.’ 

This article from NPR quotes a study suggesting there are more than 30 million jobs in the US that pay an average of $55,000 a year and DO NOT require a bachelor’s degree. 

30 million. Even if we assume that only half of those jobs are for skilled laborers, that is enough work to employ the entire states of Pennsylvania and Iowa. 

In 2017, 82% of members from the National Association of Home Builders said that finding skilled labor is their #1 problem. 

The demand for skilled workers is so obvious, it is one of the only things Presidents Obama and Trump may ever agree on. 

In 2016, under Obama, the US government awarded more than $175 million dollars in apprenticeship grants to public-private employers. In 2017, President Trump issued this executive order, calling for the continued expansion of apprenticeship programs across the country.

If you look at the US Department of Labor’s webpage on apprenticeships, there are more than 150,000 companies offering apprenticeships for 1,000 different occupations. 

The point?

Our country’s blind obsession with college over the past 30 years has created a blue ocean of blue-collar working opportunities. 

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the wide-open world of skilled trades. 


Skilled Trades Likely to Remain In-Demand


What makes the skilled trades job market even more enticing is that demand is only going to go up.

Not only is there a huge need now, but there is likely to be an even bigger need in the future.

The average trades worker is about 54 years old and most skilled trades workers retire by 60. That means in just a few years, there is going to be a huge void to fill. Estimates predict that by 2020, more than 31 million Baby Boomers who work in skilled labor will retire. 

One local study in Kansas City found that 50% of all of their skilled labor jobs will be vacant in the next five years.

Some estimates predict that 60% of ALL skilled trades workers nationwide will retire within the next 10 years.

Whatever the exact number, the point is that there will be a lot of jobs to fill.


Skilled Labor Jobs Are Secure Long Term 


Growing up, I had a friend’s mom who owned a hair salon. She once told me one of the things she loved about her job was it’s security. “People always gonna need haircuts.” 

The internet does not run without electricity. And electricity requires electricians. 

We need water to live. And in order to have water, we need indoor plumbing. No indoor plumbing without plumbers. 

The decision to invest your time in learning these trades is, unlike spending two years taking general education classes in college, an investment in skills that you will be able to leverage to make money for years to come. 

Well paying, In-demand and secure long-term. That is just about the trifecta when it comes to finding a job. 

So what gives? Why aren’t more young people jumping at these jobs?  


The Real Reason We Need Apprentices


The real reason more people don’t want to apprentice is, as my mother likes to say, because we’ve all “gotten a little too big for our britches.” 

We’re soft. Entitled. We think we’re too good to swing a hammer and sweat a little bit. Labor jobs are seen as inferior. College is seen as the only path towards respectable success.

In our abundance of national dominance since WWII, we have somehow become so pretentious that we think some jobs are better than others. That there is more honor in providing for yourself and your family by typing on a keyboard than by welding a pipe. 

But why? 

Why does everyone need to like school? Why don’t people talk about the benefits of working a job that pays well and allows you to be outside and physically active and that you don’t have to take home with you each night?

In countries such as Austria, compulsory schooling stops when children are 15 years old. At this point, they have the option to continue with formal school or to enter an apprenticeship program. There are over 250 different professions that can be learned with real-time, on the job training.
In Germany, close to 60 percent of young people train as apprentices either full-time or as a part of what is called a “dual-training” program that combines traditional schooling with actual work experience. 

Is the college grad at the trendy tech start-up who works 60 hour weeks and has to use a standing desk to prevent muscle atrophy and who  brings her laptop home every night to “clean up her inbox,” really that much better off?


Apprenticing vs. Going to College 


Photo Credit: Ricky Kharawala via Unsplash


Few people want to swing a hammer for the rest of their life. I get that. Labor is laborious. We all want to stack cash and relax to go live that good life.

But what if you could use a career as a skilled worker as a stepping stone to something more?


Going to college vs. Skilled trades apprenticeship


Estimates put the total cost of attending a four-year college at a little more than $100,000. Apprenticeship training programs are paid as you go and usually cost anywhere from $800 – $3,200. 

Right off the bat, apprentices have saved $97,000.

Plus, since training is done on-site, the apprentice is paid to learn. They will be able to pay for their classes and will also have turned education from a minus into a plus. If the apprentice is not a total degenerate, they should be able to reasonably save $300 per month. 

The average carpentry apprenticeship takes four years to complete.

In 4 years, the apprentice finishes and is now a journeyman carpenter making, on average, just under $50,000 a year. They are now 22 years old, have no student debt and have a tangible skill they can cash in to make money. Plus, not only does the carpenter not have any debt, but their $300 / month saving habit has got them just under $15,000 in the bank. 

The college student, more than likely, is still in school, likely re-upping for that magical 5th year. 

Knowing that true wealth comes from having multiple income streams, the carpenter takes the money they saved and uses it as a down-payment for their first rental property, which, seeing as they’re a carpenter and all, is a cheap fixer-upper that they do the renovation work on. 

A year later, the house is renovated and rented. The carpenter is now 23, still making $50,000 a year. With the house finished and rented out, they now have two income streams instead of one and are in debt, but it’s the good kind of debt. The type of debt that is paid for each month by the family that rents their house, not the high-interest, unforgivable student loan debt. 

The college student, on the other hand, has finally graduated. They have one income stream — an entry-level job that pays around $45,000 a year — no rental properties and $80,000 in student loan debt. 

And guess what?

College is still there for the carpenter. If they get bored with carpentry and want to try something else, they can. They’re still only 23. They can work days and take classes at night. They can work part-time while they pay their way through school. They can save money and stop working entirely and go guzzle beer legally wherever they want. 


Closing Arguments


In another life, I was a 5th grade teacher. And I can tell you from first-hand experience that it is obvious at a young age which kids were meant for the classroom and which weren’t.

It’s nothing personal, school just ain’t for everyone. There is a percentage of every population that wasn’t made to work in an office. 

And this is OK. If this is you, don’t try to fake being something you’re not. Try an apprenticeship. Unlike college, there is no financial penalty if you go and don’t like it. You simply drop out and try something else. 

Now, on to some resources that might help, should you be interested in finding an apprenticeship.

  1. – Some people might need some convincing that school isn’t for them. This is a link to the Jung Typology test. It is a personality test. It is designed to help people determine what type of jobs they might enjoy. Take this. Answer honestly. The only person you hurt by lying is yourself.
  2. – This is the US Department of Labor’s re-vamped website focused entirely on apprenticeships. You can search for programs by state. There are more than 150,000 employers and more than 1,000 occupations you can learn. You can find positions in in dynamic industries such as advanced manufacturing, healthcare and even re-newable energy.
  3. – This site has useful information on apprenticeship programs in the US and Canada and what is needed to apply. Focus is on trades, but there is a lot of other good information as well.
  4. – This is a great article full of information on the shortage of trades workers in the US. There are a links to courses and programs for skilled trades workers. 
  5. – This is an assessment put together by a site called CareerExplorer that is designed to help you determine what careers might be a good fit for you. 
  6. – This is a well-researched article with fantastic information on the skilled labor jobs that will be in highest demand. 


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