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3 Reasons Teens Don’t Consider Careers In The Skilled Trades – Even Though They Should


The following post was shared by NAHB’s workforce development communication partner, Generation T, an initiative funded by Lowe’s. Use the messaging in this post in conversations at your local HBA and with students and parents in your community.


The skilled trades are a veritable powerhouse of job stability and earnings potential. Yet in an uncertain economy where stability is often prized, many teens never consider skilled trade jobs when planning potential paths for the future. Even though these careers might represent a more ideal path for certain personalities and talents.

Here are three reasons why your teens may be overlooking lucrative career paths that could lead to long-term success — and what you can do about it.

1. They Haven’t Been Shown the Money

Many people underestimate the earnings potential of any job that doesn’t require a college degree. But many skilled trades pay more than jobs that require a four-year degree and experience. Check out these comparisons to see the real story about skilled trades earning potential.

Plumbers make $25.92 per hour on average compared to an average $23.79 per hour pay rate for social workers.

Carpenters make $22.40 per hour on average compared to an average $16.23 per hour pay for customer service reps.

Electricians make $26.53 per hour on average compared to an average $21.61 per hour pay for retail managers.

Plus, this earnings potential starts immediately. Most people who enter the skilled trades do so via paid apprenticeship or entry-level positions.

2. Surrounding Culture Doesn’t Support It

Unfortunately, the surrounding culture tends to glorify positions that require years of expensive schooling or are shots in the dark for young people. You don’t usually see a television mom introducing her son or daughter with the proud words, “Here’s Jim. He’s a plumber,” and a wink to indicate what a catch this character must be. That type of messaging — on the screen and in real life — is often reserved for doctors, lawyers, actors and sports stars.

It’s not that parents aren’t proud of the plumbers, electricians or HVAC technicians in their lives. It’s simply that the overall culture doesn’t support this type of messaging. This means it’s up to individual parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers and neighbors to change how a teen sees career decisions, especially if you feel like a teen in your life would be much more content making good money in a solid skilled trades career.

3. The Traditional Education Machine Pushes College

U.S. News and World Report ranks public schools and states with regard to the education provided to students. One of the factors in those rankings is “college readiness based on SAT and ACT scores.” The Center for American Progress proposes that a new policy to ensure quality education for every child should include five key components. One of those components is preparing all students for college.

The “TL;DR” here is that teens might not be considering career options that don’t include college because educational systems aren’t considering it as an option. There is an opportunity here to educate guidance counselors on the rewarding careers in the construction trades.

The bottom line for anyone advocating for a teen’s future? Yes, college may be the right path for some. But it isn’t for anyone, and since the skilled trades aren’t getting as much consideration as they might warrant, it’s up to advocates and parents to fill in the gaps. Find out more about how to advocate for the future of teens in your life and support the trades.

NAHB members interested in learning more about how to advocate for careers in construction and the skilled trades are invited to attend the Workforce Development Champions Forum on Wednesday, Nov. 10, to hear from experts, ask questions, share ideas and learn more about successful skilled trade training and recruitment initiatives happening across the country. The forum is free for NAHB members.

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