Why is there so little promotion of the skilled trades?

I have no idea why skills such as carpentry, metal working, electrical, masonry, and so on, are not more highly promoted. It seems that every young adult wants to go play around in college- which is understandable considering how college is aggressively pushed as the only path to “success,” add well as being portrayed as a never-ending party/ sex fest/pleasure fest.

The skilled trades can enable one to make a good living, and the cost of learning one is often a fraction of what a college “education” costs. These occupations can never be replaced with machines and will always be needed, which will put you in a much more secure position if and when society gets to a point where it can no longer afford cushy make work jobs.

I believe going to college was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made. By the time it was time for new to graduate, I had learned only 3 things: no one gives a shit, I don’t know shit, and I have no “work experience.” I would not repeat my “college experience” for any amount of money, 5 most worthless, boring, end pointless years of my life. Now, if I had went into a skilled trade, it would have most likely put me in a far better position in life. But I didn’t even think of this path as an option, no one told me. My parents, as well as my"educators," set me up for failure. When I get done with the military, I plan to put my GI Bill to work and pick up a skilled trade or two, while others use theirs to mess around college for a few years.

Why are we not promoting the skilled trades more?

Fucking good question.

I think they’re a great option if you have the aptitude. If I had it that’s probably the direction I would taken. In my case it would have been “sorry kid, you don’t have what it takes. It’s off to college for you.”

Personally I was told that Workin a trade is no way to live.

Unsteady work
No way to advance
Chances are you’ll get hurt, and be homeless
You won’t be able to support yourself over 40

Basically all untrue. Yay, shitty parents:D

Dirty Jobs Mike Rowe’s Profoundely Disconnected addresses the problem of lack of skilled trade workers. Rowe has long been an advocate for promoting these fields as professions on par with those requiring four year college degrees, and the respect due to the hard work and entrepreneurship that goes into building and running a business in skilled trades.

There are a number of reasons that the college education is held up as the necessary step in middle class porsperity, but I think one of the biggest is the private college loan industryencouraging students to pursue degrees even if they have little value or potential to recoup the investment. This is particularly true with professional degrees like law and medicine where the loan amounts can easily rise to six figures. While there are other aspects to this—the reduction of non-college clerical work, the outsourcing of factory labor overseas and the importation of construction labor, and the general notion that only a college degree provides economic security—the combination of private loan industry and public universities trying to increase enrollment to offset reductions in state subsidies has led to the expectation that even middling students with little academic interest should go to college.

This has led to a dearth of workers in the skilled trades like welding, pipefitting, electrician, et cetera. And these trades require experience and apprenticeship for proficiency, so the fewer people in them now translates into greater difficulty in expanding them later as older workers retire and there are not enough people to replace them. Of course, such work often requires a willingness to travel or relocate to where the work is, which can be difficult, but even having a college degree in specific fields often requires regular relocation.


If you can afford college without going into major debt, it is a great experience that helps in many ways in the workforce. If you have to go into 6 figure debt for a degree that doesn’t lead to a job, well they do say a sucker is born every minute.

The trades are great and some school systems still do vocational options. Carpenters, Plumbers, HVAC, Electrician, Welding, Auto Repair, etc. These are valuable and lead to jobs that will let you earn a living. Most music degrees, truth be told not so much.

I work in a trade. I think people should promote what is best for an individual person. For example, I would promote not working for a living at all, just live off your inheritance, but that’s not realistic for everyone.

Imagine you are a guidance counselor at the local high school and you advise one of the students to look into becoming a welder (starting at $40 a hour after an apprenticeship). His parents then threaten to sue the school for insinuating that their little Johnny is too stupid to go to college.

Some partial answers:
Many of the skilled trades have essentially been turned into factory-like, deskilled jobs. In construction, it is common to have one credentialed electrician supervising several wirepullers who do fairly simple repetive tasks. There are of course carpenters, but many more roofers and drywallers, who again do fairly simple, repetitive tasks. And are paid accordingly, that is, badly. The notion that construction hires highly trained, skilled workers is not as accurate as many believe. This is true of many of the trades. And a trade can be made obsolete almost overnight. Shoemaking used to be a great trade. Then some smart ass boss bought a sewing machine and shoemakers became machine tenders where their skills were worthless.

Skilled trades are very dependent on the business cycle. Many in those trades essentially work a series of temporary jobs, and when things go sideways, can be looking at periods of unemployment.

Most tradespeople work for someone else, and the hierarchy in the workplace is obvious. That’s true in white collar jobs too, but the illusion is you have more independence.

With unions smashed and the social safety net cut to ribbons, wages decline and that cyclical unemployment is harder to take.

Much of that work is dangerous. And again, with unions practically extinct, injuries are more prevalent and benefits and care when you are injured are much less.

Some people like talking about art and literature and stuff. No reason skilled tradespeople can’t do that, but people are often forced to choose: be a poet or a plumber. It is a crime that we can rarely be both these days, but there it is.

Bottom line: the trades are a lot more precarious than we often think.

I have played both sides.

A four year BA. And a master electrician.

With the BA, I got to the front of the line.

As an electrician; apprentice, journeyman, master electrician. And you are correct. No more promotion unless you want to be a contractor.

With the BA, you are competing with all the variables.

For me, the skilled trades was more rewarding.

Around here, I sure hear plenty about the skilled trades. College isn’t for everybody, for a multitude of reasons. One of my former colleagues has a son who graduated on the honor roll, and to everyone’s surprise, his parents most of all because he was never particularly mechanically oriented, instead of college, he went to an intensive 18-month auto body repair program, and AFAIK still does it. That’s one job you can’t outsource, that’s for sure.

Earlier today, someone on another board addressed the issue of promoting college to kids with intellectual disabilities, in particular Down Syndrome. We’re not talking about vocational rehabilitation, either; actual college classes, whether they can pass them or not.

What I also find disturbing, and have discovered that I am not the only one who feels this way, is the way STEM is being forced on girls, or at least it is in my area. Not exposing girls to it, not letting them know that a STEM career is OK, but the underlying message is “STEM or else.” Excuse me, there is nothing wrong with pursuing a traditionally female-oriented non-STEM job if that’s what you want to do.

You must not be in California. The state has been funding a huge multi-faceted campaign–through the community colleges and other adult education providers working with employers–to get more people successfully into CTE and employed in “trades.” See “Doing What Matters.”

The This Old House franchise is promoting getting young people into the trades, and have been for a few years. From a recent show, I understood that there is such shortage of supervisors for job sites that a journeyman or master at his trade could move into supervision if s/he were interested in working for a contractor or larger firm. From research I also learned that this shortage of supervisors is a big factor here in San Francisco for why it takes so long to get things built.

I’m not sure what you’re basing this on. We’re not talking about shoemakers, and perhaps the OP oversimplifies by referring to “carpentry, metal working, electrical, and masonry.” “The trades” are much more than that–really, each region has to work with employers to identify the sectors which have the most predicted future growth.

That’s an underlying principle of the California campaign I mentioned above. Look at some of the data there–for example, this report: "Good Jobs that Pay Without a BA."

Because no one wants to “do stuff” anymore. They just want to “manage” or “consult” or “strategize” while working in a fancy office.

My school district has a high school - the newest one in the district - specifically for people who want to go into the skilled trades. They get sponsorships from local industries. I know they have a big automotive program, I don’t know what else.
And I’m glad they have it. Some some educators care, at least.

The high schools in my area have welding programs, CNA certificate programs, and one school even has a construction program where the students build a house, with supervision. At the end of the year, when the house is finished, it’s sold and the proceeds go to the PTA and also to purchase supplies for the next house.

It’s definitely becoming more of a thing here in the UK; when I was a teen, there wasn’t a peep from anyone about the very existence of trade schools, the options presented were University or just be a useless dropout. My school was very academic, and pushed the Uni option more than most, but friends from other schools were pretty well faced with the same choice.

I’ve recently gone back to Uni, but (OK, English system being complicated) I’m doing a university level course through a college that also does 16-18 education, and I’ve been doing some work for the college, as a student, going to schools to talk about what they do. The trade options are being pushed just as much as the others, and they have some seriously nice setups for some of the training.

Emphasis supplied. These used to be trades a century hence. I won 't be surprised if a lot of the trades become professions in the medium term.

Maybe people will boast about going to Harvard Electricians School in 2118?

I’ve worked as an engineer at several different manufacturing companies, and from what I’ve seen I do agree with Kropotkin that skilled trades are very dependent on the business cycle. The numbers of guys in the shop seems to fluctuate more than the numbers in the offices, there will be some big projects and the company needs to hire more guys, or when business wasn’t doing as good the company has to let more go. Of course no office job is 100% secure, but the office jobs seems less unsteady and there’s more warning that layoffs were coming since we’d already hear that shop guys had been let go.

Also, I haven’t seen anyone mention health and safety. Sitting at my desk staring at my computer most of the day I get eye strain and slowly contributing to heart disease, but I’m not going to be burnt or crushed by anything or fall off anything and all my limbs are going to stay intact. All the companies I’ve worked at have always emphasized health and safety, but in dangerous work environments bad things can happen. I don’t know how many people take that into consideration, but if I had a child thinking about what career path to take in their future I would be thinking about it.