If you prefer experiential learning, enjoy working with your hands, are curious about how things work and would like to start making a living sooner rather than later, you may want to explore careers in the skilled trades. Spending four years in a classroom and possibly incurring student debt is not the only way to secure a stable and meaningful career. As baby boomers retire and demand for skilled labor increases, opportunities will continue to grow. Although the earning potential for those in-demand jobs is high (since employers struggle to fill open positions), many high school graduates -- and their parents -- may be hesitant about such opportunities due to the persistent narrative that a college degree is the only way to success and thus, everyone needs one.
A 2017 report released by the Harvard Business School, Accenture and Grads of Life indicates that following the great recession of 2008, “employers defaulted to using college degrees as a proxy for a candidate’s range and depth of skills.” Jobs that previously didn’t require college degrees suddenly did. Qualified candidates without a degree were left behind, and even worse, positions in the skilled trades became regarded as somehow less valuable. Although the tide seems to be turning, the continued emphasis on four-year college degrees still leaves many employers without workers and many candidates without well-paying jobs.