A career in construction offers a multitude of opportunities for a great work life, big paychecks, career advancements, and more. Even though there are great benefits in becoming a skilled tradesperson, younger generations in the United States are largely ignoring the opportunity to join our booming industry. While the search for skilled tradespeople continues to become extremely difficult, we explore the reason behind why young people are avoiding the trades and what we can do to change it.
Why Do Young People Avoid Trades?
Though we cannot pinpoint one specific reason for why young people are avoiding the construction industry, there are a few obvious factors that stick out.
Over many decades, the perception of tradespeople has become negatively skewed. As a society we have been surrounded by negative advertising and have created unattractive stigmas such as the infamous “Plumber’s Crack”. With the influence of technology and social media, social acceptance is more important than ever.
What Path Would You Choose?
Though tradespeople have been branded as uneducated and unsuccessful financially, the opposite is quite true. Many trades require institutional training and once completed, jump straight into a well paid full-time position.
- Average Electrician Salary = $52,720
- Average Plumber Salary = $50,000
- Average HVAC Installer Salary = $44,247
In 2008, the Great Recession shook the American economy, and in particular, took a great toll on the construction industry. The construction industry alone saw a 37% decline, placing many companies and families into a financial turmoil. With this extreme downturn, it is no surprise that the people effected by this time period wanted more security for their children’s future and since have encouraged a college education implying a more secure and successful career.
Now that the younger generations are beginning their careers and entering the workforce, we are seeing the direct effects of parental influence. Since the last housing boom in 2005, the share of workers in the sector who are 24 years old or younger has declined by nearly 30% in 2016 according to U.S. Census data.
As a millennial myself, I can directly attest to the overwhelming focus on getting a college degree. Not only did I receive encouragement from my family to get a college education but I was also heavily influenced by friends. Parents of my friends encouraged that to be successful you need to receive an education and strive for a “white collar” job. This indirectly influenced my decision because I also wanted to be successful and the only way to accomplish this was by getting a college degree.
What we can do to help change it?
There may not be a perfect path to helping young people see the benefits of pursuing a career as a tradesperson, however, there are definitely steps that we can take to improve the way young people view the construction industry. Here are a few ideas:
- We need to improve the social perception of what it means to be a tradesperson by improving public awareness of trade education and training requirements.
- Improve marketing strategy and content on advertisements, online, and social media to be more attractive and less comical.
- Flaunt the fact that tradespeople have the opportunity to make great money if they are willing to work hard.
- Promote the great entrepreneurial opportunities that live within the construction industry.
- Provide more trade specific education through high schools and introduce trades at a younger age.
- Recognize and communicate that there are great career advancement opportunities within the construction industry.
- Teach our youth the find joy in working hard and creating something tangible.
- Show more success stories about people that have had a great career as a tradesperson.
- Stop speaking negatively about manual labor positions like being a waste collector (garbage man), janitor, or construction worker.
- As a society, acknowledge that tradespeople are critical for economic growth and play a huge role in American society.
Let us know what you think are some of the reasons why young people are not considering skilled trades as a career path and what we as an industry can do to better educate and attract young job seekers. Comment and share below!