Path to the Trades Starts in the Living Room

Coming from a large family—sixth of seven—the blueprint for my education was pretty much drawn up. In my family, when high school was over, you went to college. That’s just what you did. Not that my parents were ever adadmant about guiding me in that direction, but it was the pattern I knew. Graduate and pick a college.

In fact, I remember to this day sitting in my guidance counselor’s office playing around on this new career-choice software program that just arrived. You input your study interests and it would tell you your career possibilities and where you should go to school to satiate that career. I am proud to say mine came up Librarian and my school choice was Colorado State University. They must excel in the Dewey Decimal System out there, but Colorado’s beauty can’t be denied. But I digress.

Upon graduation, I kept my education in-state and went to the University of Wisconsin—Madison. Yet, all through my college years, my tried and true best friends were in the trades — tool & die, moldmaking, carpentry. Yet through it all, I perpetuated the stigma. I was going to graduate and get this great job out of college. I was not going to “fall back” and enter the trades profession, because damn it, I went to college. For what, I’m not so sure.

If I had to do it all over again, I’d choose the trades. And I’m not just saying that for the sake of this article. I think it would teach me to be more hands-on, more analytical, and perhaps more patient with myself. And I know the trades would take care of me — education, training, and a nice lifestyle would be things to consider. It is because of this “epiphany,” that I will be open-minded with my children when it comes to their careers. I will discuss the benefits of the trades, as well as a college career.

I hear it almost on a daily basis: the struggle to find skilled labor in the trades. Where do we find the workers? Thousands of new jobs will open up that need to be filled with quality workers over the next five to 10 years. Mike Rowe on Capitol Hill, a need for better direction from guidance counselors to the need for more trade/tech schools to keeping the discussion alive are all good efforts to guide young talent into the trades. However, my opinion? It starts at home, with us as parents. We have to let go of this stigma that college is the better way. In some cases, it may be, but for others, it can be like sleepwalking for four years. Believe me.

We need to guide our children and give them every opportunity to succeed in whatever path the may take. Plain and simple.

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