Career Key

Author: Career Key's President and CEO, Juliet Wehr Jones, GCDF, J.D.

Monday, March 24, 2008

How to Make Trades a Sexy Career Choice

Recently I've seen several articles like this one in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer bemoaning the lack of young people's interest in high-paying, somewhat secure jobs in the trades. I also read through the many comments this article generated and here is a summary of what people believe is the problem:
  • Young people are lazy and do not have the work ethic for these jobs.
  • Trades have an image problem (beer gut, bearded, Nascar loving plumber), and a social stigma attached to "blue-collar" work.
  • Too much emphasis is placed on 4 year college as the goal, even for people for whom that's not the best option.
  • Cuts in shop programs in high schools.
But what I found most interesting was the number of commenters that said something similar to this fellow "Sizzle":
I'm a guy who did the college thing, but shoulda done did the trade thing.....Sittin in a cube, pushin email and paper for 40 hours a week, pullin down a paycheck...every spare moment i have I'm thinking about wrenching on something, fixing something, figuring out how to put something together, wondering 'why was that thing built that way?'. I'm great with tools, strong as i'd need to be for any trade, and have no problem dealing with all kinds of people. Yep, its a social thing as much as anything -- parents puttin the fear in ya that if you don't go to college you might as well be sippin on a 40 under a bridge somewhere, plannin' yer next kidnappin'... The happiest, most well-adjusted, best paid friends of mine are in the trades...
This point of view shows why knowing yourself and your interests before making career choices is important. As perhaps in Sizzle's case, if your highest scoring Holland personality type is "Realistic," research shows you will be more satisfied working in a Realistic working environment.

In our decision-making article, we talk about analyzing the "consequences" of one's career choice, like parental disapproval (as Sizzle refers to above). If you follow the principles of good decision-making, you'll be more likely to assess, overcome and deal with these consequences when you decide on a career that fits your personality, but may not be your parents' or friends' choice for you. They are not the ones who have to go to your job every day.

Getting back to "how to make trades the sexy career choice," I suggest that we continue to improve and fund career and technical education for all students, and to include more options outside of a four year college. Allowing young people to see how these jobs work, including the physical aspect, and the financial benefits would help.

As for the "prestige factor," aside from George Clooney quitting his job as a Hollywood actor and becoming a lineman, I think the only way young people will see trades as an option is to actually see where tradespeople work and how they live, through mentorship, job shadowing, and field trips. As many commenters from the Seattle P-I article correctly pointed out, most tradespeople do not fit the negative stereotype I referred to earlier. And even if they do fit it, every profession has unattractive, unloveable people - including doctors, lawyers, etc.

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