The Power of Trade Schools
One problem perennially plaguing the construction industry is finding and retaining quality employees. Employees want more pay, better benefits, or aren’t interested in manual labor at all. Employers want dedicated, reliable, hardworking employees. Some people attribute the problem to COVID, stimulus checks, political happenings, or just a general decline in workers.
As many older workers took the last few years as an opportunity to retire, industries have felt their absence. Younger workers are needed to replace them, but many never consider construction or skilled trades. Instead, the typical rhetoric is still pushing them to attend college.
Many students won’t flourish in college, unaware of alternate career paths. If we can spread the message that gainful employment can come from multiple avenues, not just a college degree, the labor pool will improve.
We recently spoke to Tony Trapp, Apprenticeship Coordinator for our local trade school, Upper Valley Career Center, about his view. He said, “We find the importance of helping students explore careers during their K-12 education cannot be emphasized enough. We have to get in there and share these successes, so children begin thinking about the possibilities.”
In other words, we need to give them agency over their future by presenting them with multiple paths for success. If students choose a track that fits their ambitions and skillset, they can flourish.
We’ve collectively decided to overvalue a college education and, in turn, white-collar jobs. We’ve undervalued a technical and practical education and, in turn, blue-collar jobs. The truth is, neither is more valuable than the other. We need both to succeed as a society, and both offer a livable income to foster success.
Some students prefer not to take tests; they like learning with their hands. These students shouldn’t feel forced into choosing a path to employment that doesn’t favor them and won’t help them succeed. If they excel with working with their hands and prefer that instead, technical school can be a life-changing outlet.
Perhaps the strongest argument for technical schools is the apprenticeship program. Many companies struggle to retain employees long enough to train. Turnover rates are high, and loyalty comes at a premium. With an apprenticeship program, you involve students from a younger age and help bridge the gap between school and employment. The students start earning money and learning valuable skills, and the employers introduce them to the working world.
Tony said it this way, “If employers can see the value in investing in this young workforce, creating habits in the workforce that they want versus breaking old habits, that breeds success right there.” Training is an opportunity to develop good habits, train on company-specific systems, and adopt proper safety protocols.
Ultimately, trade schools are an incredible source of trained, motivated individuals with potential. So, partner with your local trade school. Sponsor events, get to know students, and make your presence known. Developing a positive public opinion and being front-of-mind makes a big difference for prospective employees.
Todd Miller has spent his entire career in the metal building products manufacturing industry. He is president of Isaiah Industries, an organization recognized as one of the world’s leading metal roofing manufacturers. Todd is currently Vice President of the MRA (Metal Roofing Association) and a Past Chair of MCA (Metal Construction Association). Through his website, he strives to raise the bar on standards and practices to provide property owners with the best possible products for successful roofing projects.
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