Blog Post

Oakmont Education is striving to re-engage opportunity youth through our innovative Career Technical Education program. Offering real-world experience and the chance to earn nationally recognized industry credentials, our Career Tech model is focused on helping students discover sustainable career options within the skilled trades. Of course, this model only works if (A) there is a wealth of skilled-labor job openings and (B) these types of careers provide financial stability. So, is Career Tech a viable path for opportunity youth? Take a look:

America is experiencing a skills gap

In general, many Americans associate higher education with stability and success. This way of thinking has caused millions of high school graduates to enroll in four-year degree programs that may not be suited for them and has continued to perpetuate the stereotype that a degree equals good and a vocation equals bad.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, 6 out of 10 students who enroll in college will not earn a degree within six years – but will accrue tens of thousands in debt. Meanwhile, our skilled trades workforce is suffering, and stable employers offering middle-income starting salaries and full benefits are scrambling to fill positions. By 2028, the U.S. will have millions of unfilled skilled trade positions. Already, 1 in 3 trade professionals cite workforce shortages as a reason they’ve had to delay work. Here are some of the key opportunities:

Manufacturing

Currently, there are more than 500,000 manufacturing job vacancies across the U.S., and research shows this will only intensify. The 10-year projection indicates 4.6 million job openings with the industry having the capacity to fill somewhere around half of those vacancies.

Construction

Last year, 82 percent of builders reported the cost and availability of skilled laborers to be the number one problem they faced. This number has more than doubled in recent years, with only 30 percent citing the same issue as a problem in 2013. More than 1 million job openings are projected over the next 10 years.

Home services and repairs

Electrical, plumbing, HVAC service and appliance repair are all promising career options for those interested in skilled trades. Over the next decade, these fields are expected to offer approximately 844,000 openings, 622,000 openings, 390,000 openings and 43,000 openings, respectively.

Skilled trade jobs are more profitable than you might think

As I’ve already indicated, trade school leaves opportunity youth with far less student loan debt, but if you look at the numbers, it’s a actually a pretty stark contrast. The average cost of a trade school education (with loans and interest) is $33,000 – compared the $154,000 for a four-year degree program. It’s also important to note that individuals who graduate from trade schools typically finish their education in half the time, if not more, which means they enter the workforce sooner and get a head start on their earning potential. Salaries vary quite a bit depending on the specific trade, but some trades, such as electrical, have a median salary as high as $54,110, compared to the average college graduate earning $48,400.

Replenishing our skilled trades workforce is critical. Guiding opportunity youth toward sustainable career paths is a smart move and a win for both the individuals and the communities they live in.

Learn more about our Career Tech academic model and how local trades businesses can get involved.