By Lisa Killingsworth
Lately, I have been overhearing people telling students that they should perform better in school so that they “Don’t end up like the construction workers on the side of the road.” They also ask students, “Do you think that they like working those construction jobs?” Comments like these demonstrate that there is still a negative stigma attached to people who work in the skilled trades. Many of these workers are considered lazy and dumb because they are seen as people who are not capable of completing the traditional education path. While it is important to stress the significance of obtaining a good college education, we also need to include the pursuit of a skilled trade into the conversation when discussing career options after high school.
It will take some time for people to accept the fact that skilled trade jobs are a profession that requires lots of hands on training, math and science; they’re not for slackers. Whether someone goes to college or chooses to become an apprentice, students should know that both options require the same amount of hard-work and dedication. They should be educated about some of the benefits of working in the skilled trades: a competitive salary, good benefits, and developing skills that prepare a person for the workplace.
An apprentice typically earns while they learn, which is one of the main incentives to join the trades. Once they become “journeymen” or experts in their field, they can potentially earn from $60-$80,000 per year. This is a lot more than college and university graduates make in their first, entry-level job. This is because someone working in the skilled trades has already been working in their field for about 2-4 years and are prepared to earn a higher income because they are already more experienced.
Another valuable message about the skilled trades is coming from employers. Big businesses and corporations aim to hire young, hard-working individuals who have some sort of educational experience. Like college, working in the skilled trades presents ample opportunities to learn and to become well-versed in a particular field such as welding, plumbing or bricklaying. Also, it is a great way to develop skills such as teamwork, leadership, collaboration and communication, all of which can be used in any workplace setting.
The skilled trades are a great way to make a living. It is time to accept the idea that the skilled trades are just as valuable as white collar jobs when it comes to choosing a career.
The Partnership for Diversity and Opportunity in Transportation (The Partnership) consists of unions, businesses, and non-profit representatives, working collaboratively to enhance economic development within neighborhoods—which are directly impacted by major public works, and transportation construction projects—by creating community benefits, business growth, job training and other opportunities.
MiRoad2Work.org is one of The Partnership’s programs, designed as a “one-stop shop” for information about apprenticeships, apprenticeship programs and business opportunities in the transportation sector. The name represents our goal to demystify the apprenticeship process by helping more people find their way into the apprenticeship pipeline, as well as broadening awareness of business opportunities with Michigan Department of Transportation.