The United States doesn’t have enough skilled labor and both federal and state leaders are implementing strategies to increase skills in many areas. That’s good news for people looking for a job that pays well.
While some adults may be seeking out vocational training to move into a new career after a job loss, many local school systems are now encouraging young people to consider technical schools and community colleges rather than a traditional university. Reasons include the lower costs of technical schools – about $900 per semester – the growing need for skilled labor, and the income potential for those professions.
The need is strong for skilled workers like plumbers, electricians and mechanics, according to Forbes. The ManpowerGroup stated that, beginning in 2010, the toughest areas to staff are the skilled labors like electricians and welders. Even with the decline in construction after the 2008 housing crash, there are businesses, landlords and homeowners who need basic services by someone certified in that field. A downplay in the economy means people aren’t moving or buying new cars, but are maintaining their current homes and cars instead.
These are trades that can pay well. A plumber or a mechanic can make $40 to $60 an hour even in a low-cost area. Pennsylvania State Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, said it makes sense to focus on a low-cost education that will result in a good job rather than paying thousands for a diploma that leaves young people with no job and lots of loans. Grove said he wants to make sure students in his state know about these opportunities.
Pennsylvania voted earlier this year to task a subcommittee to promote career and technical training programs. Georgia increased its education budget in 2013 to include nearly $16.7 million dollars for technical colleges. Georgia’s legislature voted in 2014 to approve a bill expanding the state’s Hope Scholarship in order to pay full tuition for the best technical students. Other states like Arizona, Kansas, Montana, Utah and Wisconsin were given grants in 2010 to promote courses, including vocational courses that lead to careers.
The U.S. Department of Education is also seeking a solution. It documented a rising number of adults unskilled for any job over the past 10 years and began its Bridge Program to offer training in 2010 to help those people get training to be hired.
The problem of a lack of skilled labor has been developing for more than 20 years, according to the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES). Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, educators began to push students into college degree programs rather than vocational schools. Part of that was the idea that young people would make more money with a college degree than without.
According to NCES, 97 percent of public high school graduates successfully finished at least one technical school course in 1992 with 87 percent completing a course related to a specific job. Those numbers had already started a decline prior to 1992 as the number of earned academic credits rose with teachers emphasizing books over vocational education. The mid 1990s saw the results of the changed philosophy to education with vocational courses accounting for only 16 percent of total high school education courses.
Outsourcing and manufacturing closings hastened the decline of vocational education. However, states began to feel the pain when newer companies, particularly high tech companies, wanted to expand but turned away from states that couldn’t offer a skilled work force.