National College Decision Day was last week and students across the nation celebrated their future path to a bachelor’s degree. However, not all students have passions for pursuing a four-year degree after high school. Many are interested in pursuing trades skills and careers often referred as “blue-collar jobs”. Research shows that this could be a smart choice in pursuing a secure and lucrative career.
“Some 30 million jobs in the United States that pay an average of $55,000 per year don’t require bachelor’s degrees” –The Good Jobs Project
The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce and JP Morgan Chase are conducting a three year research project, The Good Jobs Project, examining how the structural changes in the U.S. economy are developing new pathways to well-paying jobs. They outline that blue-collar jobs are adding a new sector of skilled technical jobs that require additional training after high school, but not a bachelor’s degree. This includes fields such as carpentry, electrical, plumbing, sheet-metal work, pipe-fitting and even more specified manufacturing careers in oil and mining. They indicate that skilled-services industries accounted for 77% of job growth amongst jobs not requiring a college degree. Some of the highest paying blue-collar jobs can be found here. In a survey of the median incomes of blue-collar jobs, among the highest were senior piping designer ($92.600), air traffic controller ($90,600) and elevator mechanic ($88.200).
Jobs Are Plentiful, But There Aren’t Not Enough People To Hire
- The U.S. Department of Education reports that people with career and technical educations are more likely to be employed than their peers with academic credentials.
- Despite this, there is a struggle to fill the growing demand for technical jobs.
- Employers are raising starting wages/salaries to entice new employees, but apprenticeship programs still are encountering a draught.
How Can Schools Boost Their Career and Technical Education?
Career and technical education (CTE) has long been neglected by American schools. The vocational track was often considered the pathway for students who needed to find professional alternatives because they could not perform as well academically as their counterparts. However, the paradigm needs to change. A Fordham Institute study indicates that career and technical education is advantageous for all students in their high school curriculum. Students who took more career and technical education courses in high school were more likely to graduate, enroll in a two-year college, be employed, and have higher wages. In addition, high school technology education teachers and guidance counselors are being underutilized in promoting career and technical education programs and careers post-high school. However, schools have the power to make change on this issue. One school district in Wisconsin is leading the charge in innovation of CTE programs. They are promoting CTE while also addressing local job growth by paying the tuition for teachers to earn targeted technical Master’s degrees and teach trades skills that are in demand.
Resources to Support CTE Programs
A good starting point in transforming CTE programs is the National Center for Career and Technical Education. It is a major repository of information on career pathways, research, professional development, and curriculum integration. Chevron offers multiple STEM and CTE initiatives including free digital fabrication lessons, an online community for K-12 educators interested in integrating engineering in the classroom, and resources for inspiring girls in engineering. Culinary and hospitality careers job demand can be supported with a curriculum program such as this one. Technical drawing is a foundation for many skilled-trade jobs. Here is a free curriculum outline https://www.curriki.org/oer/Design-and-Drawing-for-Production for a design and drawing for production course. The Educator Resource Center at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum has a multitude of free K-12 lesson plans based on design and real-world applications.
The biggest takeaway is that CTE is beneficial for all students. Most importantly, it is a necessary support for the many students who have ambitions for skilled technical careers and have gone underserved for so long. Does your school make students who don’t plan on pursuing a bachelor’s degree a priority? Why or why not?