The Changing Stigma of Choosing Trade School Over College

Has the “American Dream” changed? For many people born in Generation X, the “Dream” was as going to college, getting married, buying a house, having 2.5 kids, and buying a minivan or SUV.

An office worker was traditionally perceived to be professional, educated, and successful. Trade workers, including electricians, plumbers, and construction workers, were perceived as less successful. 

Why is College Pushed So Much?

People with college educations were generally considered white-collar workers. College was pushed on individuals because while-collar jobs were perceived to be better than trade jobs.

Individuals with a trade job were considered blue-collar workers. Many people looked down on blue-collar jobs, even though the country would be in chaos without the hard-working men and women who take pride in their blue-collar jobs. It is a stigma that continues today.

It may be difficult for some white-collar workers to believe that blue-collar workers are happier performing what they view as “menial” jobs. In most cases, trade workers earn two or three times as much as an office worker. 

Today, the American Dream has changed for many young people. With the rising cost of college tuition, young adults are considering trade school vs. college, despite the stigma of choosing trade school over college.

Skilled Trade Shortage

There is a skilled trade shortage in America. Because going to college was aggressively pushed on children from grade school forward, there is now a shortage of tradespeople. Schools transitioned from offering students the choice of a trade training program during high school to championing college as the only respectable career path. 

The result is a shortage of blue-collar workers. As the demand for trade workers increases, the number of college graduates working blue-collar jobs just to make ends meet are increasing. As young people see that college does not guarantee a high-paying job, they are opting to forego the high expense of a college education to begin earning money right now.

Skilled Trades in Demand

The shortage of blue-collar workers means that high paying trade jobs sit empty. Some of the skilled trades in demand right now include:

Cargo and Freight Agents

Individuals who work as cargo and freight agents can earn between $26,700 to $69,040 per year. The wide salary range depends on the specific job the person performs. Baggage handlers are on the lower end of the scale, whereas a freight coordinator earns wages at the higher end of the scale.

Cargo and freight agents assist customers in shipping goods by air, train, and truck. They help customers choose the best shipping method that meets their needs, budgets, and timelines. They handle everything from taking the order through confirming the delivery of the goods.

A strong understanding of transportation logistics is required, as well as strong computer skills. Baggage handlers are required to move heavy loads. A serious drawback of this profession is that injury sustained during maritime work is not covered by workers’ compensation.

Construction Workers

The average salary of a construction worker is $36,000. However, many construction workers earn more because they work a great deal of overtime during specific periods of the year. Also, some construction workers who have specialized training to operate certain machinery or perform certain tasks may earn much more.

Construction site injury is relatively common. Construction workers often use heavy machinery and work at great heights. Construction accidents can cause catastrophic injuries and death. 

Electricians

Electricians earn an average of $56,180 per year. However, that rate increases substantially with experience, certifications, and special skills.

An electrician installs and maintains electrical systems in commercial, public, and private buildings. They may also work for utility companies installing and maintaining the lines. An electrician may also install and repair appliances that require electricity.

Because an electrician works with electricity, the risk of injury or death is higher than some other jobs. As with many other trades, electricians can work long hours, including weekends and nights. They may be on-call at all hours for emergencies.

HAZMAT Workers

HAZMAT workers earn an average annual salary of $43,900. These individuals work with dangerous and hazardous materials, such as radioactive wages, asbestos, and lead. They are trained to identify and safely remove these materials.

Because of the dangerous materials they work with, HAZMAT workers must have specialized training. The risk of injury or death can be very high, depending on the type of material and work environment. Strict guidelines and safety protocols must be in place to protect workers from injury or harm.

Plumbers

The national average wage for a plumber is $55,160 per year. However, anyone who has called a plumber in an emergency knows that plumbers can earn much more per hour. The rate increases if the plumber is certified, has specialized skills, or works in specific industries.

Plumbers install and repair water, sewage, and gas supply lines. They also install and repair appliances connected to water lines. 

Because plumbers work with water, electricity, and gas, there is a risk of electrocution and other injuries. Many plumbers work long hours, and work nights and on weekends. Plumbers usually are on call 24/7 when they work for themselves. 

Solar PV Installers

Solar PV installers earn an average of $44,890 per year. They assemble, install, and maintain systems that convert sunlight into solar energy. They work in the private, public, and commercial sectors.

Because they connect panels to electric boards, there is a risk of electrocution. They also work on roofs, so there is a risk of falling. 

Solar PV installers must have a working knowledge of measurements, structural framing, assembly, and solar modules. They use a variety of hand tools and power tools to perform their job.

Truck Drivers

Commercial truck drivers earn an average of $45,260 per year. However, many truck drivers earn more than the average if they work for large trucking companies or corporations. Truck drivers operate large trucks, such as 18-wheelers, tractor-trailers, semi-trucks, and big rigs. 

Truck drivers transport goods throughout the entire country. Long-haul truck drivers may cover thousands of miles to deliver a load. They are often away from home for days or weeks at a time. 

The most significant risk associated with truck driving is truck accidents. Accidents involving large trucks can result in catastrophic injuries and fatalities. However, depending on the circumstance, a commercial truck driver who is involved in an accident may be eligible for workers’ compensation

Wind Turbine Technicians

Wind turbine technicians earn an average of $52,910 per year. They install, test, repair, inspect, and maintain wind turbines. Wind turbine technicians may also gather data for analysis and research and test other components related to the wind turbines.

Because wind turbine technicians work on tall towers, there is a risk of falling. Also, the machines involve electrical, mechanical, and hydraulic components that can cause traumatic injuries. 

Benefits of Going to Trade School

Is trade school better than college? It depends on the person’s preference for work. For some individuals, the benefits of going to a trade school outweigh the benefits of a college degree.

Benefits of going to trade school include:

  • Less expensive than going to a traditional four-year college
  • Most programs can be completed in less time than it takes to get a college degree
  • Many trade jobs pay very well
  • Trade jobs provide union opportunities
  • Start dates are available throughout the year for most programs
  • Smaller classes with people who are seeking the same career path
  • Hands-on training prepares students for immediate entry into a job
  • Admission requirements are less strict
  • No unnecessary classes or requirements
  • Find a job quickly because of the high demand for skilled workers

With the number of blue-collar businesses in demand, trade schools may continue to see an increase in enrollment as young adults ignore the stigma associated with trade work to pursue careers that meet their needs and desires.