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What Skilled Trades Really Offer

The Problem:

Nearly every single article out there coaching about what you need for successful employment for 2025 and beyond focuses on higher education. It's all about analytical thinking and digital know-how. It's about emotional and social intelligence. 

On average, a four-year college degree costs a whopping $122,000. This high cost is causing adult mentors to direct new students toward careers that pay more. 

Students are thinking about their future. Mentors and colleges are thinking about how we can progress and compete with other companies in the future. 

Educators are influenced by enforced standards and college advocates telling them that more expensive higher education in modern technology is best for their students. That digital advancement is key to our future as a society and as an individual.

Yet, there's no future without the people who build it. 

We need the people willing to learn how to build our buildings to house those robotics and servers society expects to make life easier and faster. We need skilled people to install heating, ventilating, air conditioning, flooring, appliances, and everything we need in the modern world.

Going to college is tough, and many students drop out during their Sophomore year.  For many jobs in the modern world, a student must work more than four years to get their degree. 

During this time, they're acquiring more debt in student loans and incurring additional costs. Their income-earning potential is delayed further into their life. After all this, they often discover that getting the job is much harder than expected. 

Many more find their chosen career path very unrewarding.

Skilled trades may be the answer. 

The good thing is that leaders in the skilled trades industry are looking to become more involved with students and catch them earlier.  Vocational training leaves graduates with little or no student debt.

Employers are seeking skilled trades employees constantly. They’re looking for everything from laborers to individuals with specific skills. 

According to Lowe's, there will be an estimated 3 million job vacancies in the skilled trades by 2028. Additionally, they report that 69% of members of the National Association of Home Builders reported delays in construction projects due to a shortage of qualified workers. 

The National Association of Home Builders stated last year that "we're not training enough people in skilled trades." 

More people need to hear the call for skilled trades. 

The reality is that the skilled trades are just as vital to our future as the technology trades. Even though they may build their products in the cloud, those companies will still need a physical space to collaborate, work, and develop their ideas. 

Our country's economic vitality depends on skilled trades. The demand for skilled trades has substantially increased since we've begun recovering from the pandemic. Manpower warns that the global shortage "could stall future economic growth." 

Common misconception: Skilled trades don’t pay well.

When people think of skilled trades, they often think of dirty jobs that don't take much brainpower. They make assumptions based upon what they can see of the work being done on the road and construction sites. 

Hence, young people are discouraged by their mentors from going into the skilled trades. They're pressured into college for "more lucrative" careers by educators and counselors.

Even our high schools take teaching about code work more seriously than skilled trades. They're guided by statistics telling them this is where our children's future careers lay. 

This is wrong for two reasons:

  1. Learning a trade costs on average $100,000 less than going to college or university. 
  2. Skilled Trades pay more than people think.

          Median wages according to Bureau of Labor Statistics:

          $49,520 Carpenters with high school diploma or equivalent.
          $56,900 Electricians with high school diploma or equivalent.
          $62,020 Electricians with trade school education.
          $50,590 Heating, AC, and Refrigeration with a postsecondary nondegree award.

As you can see, the skills it takes to create a physical presence for our homes, businesses, organizations, and everything in between are valuable. These salaries compare to many jobs that require long years in college. 

In comparison, secretaries and administrative assistants earn an average of over $10,000 less per year.

Common jobs in the construction industry include:

  • Electricians
  • Plumbers and Pipefitters
  • Backhoe and other construction equipment operators
  • Electrical repairmen
  • Riggers
  • Machinists
  • Tool and die makers
  • Welders
  • Carpenters
  • Forklift handlers, including large capacity forklifts
  • Tile and marble setters
  • Cement masons and finishers
  • Painters
  • Sheet metal workers
  • Structural iron and steel workers
  • Plasterers
  • Crane and tower operators
  • Dump truck operators

Less Investment 

When you choose to learn a trade instead of going to college, you save in terms of both time and money.  A bachelor's degree will cost you at least four years to finish and leave you with a very expensive student bill.

As shown above, some trade jobs won't take much more than high school education, while others take some training. This training may be through a trade school, certification training, or an apprenticeship.

The average trade school program takes two years to finish. They also cost a lot less than colleges and universities.  

More return for your investment.

Choosing a skilled trade doesn't mean you sacrifice income potential. In fact, it can have the opposite effect. Your trade often pays more than other types of jobs, even some that require college degrees. 

You also have the power to specialize in a specific skill or trade. Experts become more in demand. As an expert, you also find that you work on different jobs, which helps you earn more money faster.

Even if you don't specialize and work for more than one company or client, your skilled trade provides you with opportunities to grow and advance within your career. In the modern world, you can still choose to learn more skills on the job and earn promotions.

The more experience you acquire in the construction field and the more you prove yourself valuable, the further you can go. You have the potential to become a foreman, supervisor, or superintendent. 

Or, you can choose to get your contractor's license and promote your skills as a business owner. The opportunities and choices are wide, from working for larger contracting companies as a sub-contractor or offering your expertise to homeowners directly. 

No matter what route you take, skilled trade offers you a solid income and opportunities for growth. 

Transitioning as a Skilled Tradesman

We’ve covered the importance of skilled trades and what it takes to get into them from the beginning. We’ve mentioned the growth potential you have with your skilled trade. 

What if you’re working with a company and wish to break free to be your own boss? Or, what if you’re one of those who got the college degree and decide you’re happier doing something you’re skilled at?

Let’s look at Bob’s story and how he transitioned from working with a company that built houses to running his own small business from home. In Bob’s case, he’s older and has been working for the company for a long time. 

When Bob found himself suddenly without a job due to cutbacks, it ended up being good fortune for him. He loved his work but hated the constraints corporate control put upon him. 

Instead of looking for a similar position with another company, he decided to establish his own business. He took over a gutter installation truck during a liquidation sale and hired enough people to form one team for home remodeling and gutter installation.

Bob not only made more money for his family running his own business than he did before, but he also found more security. This was clearly felt when his wife had to go to a special hospital for five months.

Because he owned the business, he was able to go to the hospital with his wife to support her while leading the teams from afar. His paycheck during those months was secure. 

His business grew over the years to add another two teams, and he passed the business down to his eldest son, who had joined him as one of the first teams. He retired with self-satisfaction. 

Not only did he achieve all the above by becoming a business owner, but he was able to become a pivotal member of the community. He helped so many people by providing them great service at a reasonable price, often redoing jobs the bigger companies got wrong. 

He also found he had more time to volunteer, such as building all the furniture, a multi-crib system, and more for his church. He helped a few of the local organizations and served on a few committees. 

The major takeaway here: Bob did not finish high school. He took everything he learned while working for the big company, combined it with his strong business sense, and created success.

While this story is 100% true, we’re not encouraging anyone to not complete their basic education. It’s important to finish high school. 

We’re encouraging you to have faith in yourself and do what’s best for you. Bob succeeded because he had a natural ability with numbers and a keen business mind.

That doesn’t mean you can’t transition into a skilled trade if you don’t have the same mindset. It just means that you must be honest with yourself and accept guidance from someone who does.

Start Small and Move Forward

Bob transitioned overnight to owning his own business because circumstances forced him to do it. If he had chosen this path for himself, he would have done it more slowly. 

He would have worked side jobs on the weekends, saved up his money from those, and invested in his business startup when he accrued enough capital.

Perhaps you already practice a skilled trade, such as building cabinets for friends and family around your day job. Spread the word that you’re available for hire and get a few side jobs that way.

Keep spreading the word and acquiring references from customers. Save your money up, and when you’ve saved enough funds to quit the unsatisfying day job to go full-time with it, do it! 

It's a good feeling when you bust your tail to give somebody a job well done, and you're paid well for it in return. You wake up motivated to succeed every morning. 

Please encourage others to take the skill trade path. We need more for our future.