The Trade Industry: Good Money, Advancement Opportunities, But Few Applicants
Quick, name a high-paying profession that doesn’t require a four-year degree.
Stumped? The reality is that while fields like computer science and medicine are white-hot, there are still many trade jobs that pay extremely well and don’t require nearly as much formal education. And the current work force is aging out, with current estimates placing the average age in the trades as mid- to late-50s.
The “trades” is a shorthand umbrella term for technical work—plumbers, welders, automotive, even cooking. And while the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) estimates that welder in the beginning of his or her career can make north of $55,000 a year, filling trade positions can be challenging.
“I think every parent wants their student to be a lawyer or a doctor and I think we need to listen to the students more as well,” Steve DeWitt, the deputy executive director of ACTE, told WJLA. “What do they really want to do? Then look at the economics of that. Are there fulfilling careers that are paying a family earning wage? So, if the answer is yes, let’s support that and get them into those careers.”
He emphasizes that even if a trade worker starts with only skill certification, there’s no reason they can’t eventually get a two- or four-year degree. And data shows that high school students who train for technical jobs graduate at much higher rates: 93 percent, versus the national average of 80 percent.
Quentin Metheny, an auto mechanic in his father’s automotive shop, told WJLA that there’s opportunity—and money—waiting for those who look at options other than four-year colleges.
“I don’t have many kids calling me that are young, ‘Hey can I be an oil change guy, can I come and learn?’ And that’s what we need,” he said.