Gen Z Taking Up Skilled Trades

New York, NY, April 2, 2024-"America needs more plumbers, and Gen Z is answering the call,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

“Long beset by a labor crunch, the skilled trades are newly appealing to the youngest cohort of American workers, many of whom are choosing to leave the college path. Rising pay and new technologies in fields from welding to machine tooling are giving trade professions a face-lift, helping them shed the image of being dirty, low-end work. Growing skepticism about the return on a college education, the cost of which has soared in recent decades, is adding to their shine.

“Enrollment in vocational training programs is surging as overall enrollment in community colleges and four-year institutions has fallen. The number of students enrolled in vocational-focused community colleges rose 16% last year to its highest level since the National Student Clearinghouse began tracking such data in 2018. The ranks of students studying construction trades rose 23% during that time, while those in programs covering HVAC and vehicle maintenance and repair increased 7%.

“‘It’s a really smart route for kids who want to find something and aren’t gung ho on going to college,’ says Tanner Burgess, 20, who graduated from a nine-month welding program last fall.

“Though he’d originally figured he’d go to college, the route began to feel less appealing during the pandemic, when he watched his parents-both tech workers-gaze at their computers all day and realized he didn’t like the idea of spending his life seated before a screen.

“After reading up on the skilled trades, he settled on welding. ‘I thought it was cool because it had a lot of fire,’ says Burgess, who’s now helping install pipes for a new hospital in San Diego.

“A secure job track and the prospect of steadily growing earnings didn’t hurt either. After five years at the profession, he says he expects to be making a six-figure annual income, based on what he sees others around him making.

“‘It feels good at the end of the day, I’m physically doing something, and there’s a sense of completion,’ he says.”