How Trades Suddenly Became a Hot Ticket

It may be a bit of a surprise, but last summer, a statistic came out saying that people in skilled trades were in higher demand that those with bachelor’s degrees. For those who have been raised to think that college was the best path to a better life, this may be shocking, but in many ways, that mentality is part of what led to the current landscape in the first place. If you’re still in high school or have a child or family member around that age, it may not be a bad idea to learn how the landscape has changed.


Let’s start by taking a closer look at the 1970’s and 1980’s. Around this time, people started to see this as the only true post-high school option versus one of many. This manifested in a lot of different ways, from shaming the trades to the growth of various businesses and markets that worked with young professionals specifically. While this was going on, many trade programs around the country atrophied due to lack of use, and many jobs stayed unfilled.


Don’t get these confused with unskilled labor jobs. Instead, the group that’s being underused are people who don’t have a bachelor’s degree but have something more than a high school diploma. Skilled associate’s degree holders, as well as trade school grads, fit the bill here.    

According to Federal statistics, 8 percent of undergraduates are enrolled in certificate programs. These programs are generally more geared toward vocational work.


Still on the fence? You may want to reconsider, as this higher demand means you may have more potential with a proper trade degree than a traditional college degree. For example, this country currently has 30 million jobs paying an average of $55,000 per year, no degree required. A trade school certification is enough to get you not just a decent paying job, but one working in your field of choice.


Think about this for a second. Getting a mechanic job, working on a Nissan Juke in Santa Ana, is easy to break into. However, something like social work can be a lot more difficult to break into, and the pay isn’t that far apart. This last example illustrates a major problem bachelor’s degree holders are grappling with: underemployment. Yes, getting a degree raises your chances of getting a job, but what type of job will it be? Many people who choose a crowded degree field or one where opportunities are limited end up taking a job outside of their expertise, sometimes a job that has no relevance to their field of study at all.

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