In a society where the need to get a four-year degree has been ingrained in the minds of young people, for most, it seems like the only option. But, unfortunately, after completing the years of schooling required to receive that degree, most college grads are left jobless and/or forced to take a job in an unrelated field just for the paycheck. With a highly saturated pool of college graduates, and the lack of actual “entry-level” jobs, it often takes years for college graduates to acquire a job that is within the realm of what they went to school for. This doesn’t mean that getting a four-year degree is the wrong route to take, but it is important to understand that there are in fact other options.
Unfortunately, however, these other options can often come with negative stigmas that are not always true. This idea is summed up quite accurately in a USA TODAY article titled Rethinking Blue-Collar Jobs: USA TODAY Explores A ‘New Middle’ with EMSI Data, “For years, most students have been nudged in the direction of a four-year diploma. High schools have cut vocational and technical education programs. Pursuing a skilled trade has been left to those who aren’t fit for college.”
However, what most high school students are not being told when it’s time to look for colleges and think about their future, is that there are indeed many lucrative hands-on, blue-collar jobs available to them. These jobs require less school, and more hands-on training, and the learning of a skill. With less years of schooling, this also means less burdens of student loans to pay for the years to come after graduation. Because they require less schooling, it is easy to aid in creating the stigma of skilled laborers being those who “aren’t fit for college.” But, the truth is that this hands-on training and these technical skills are not less than, but simply different. An “educated” college grad may look at a skilled laborer job and understand the complexity of the skill they possess, and envy this skillset.
“It doesn’t make sense to slam a 4-year degree any more than it makes sense to slam a welding pursuit,” Mike Rowe told USA TODAY in the same article. Rowe started a foundation called mikeroweWORKS which helps to provide scholarship money to trades schools that train skilled laborers. Blue collar jobs that require skill, and some education, but not a 4-year degree are beginning to become more normalized, but are still often stigmatized.
The idea of a “skills gap” has been discussed in depth in several articles and media channels, some believing the idea is made up, and some providing facts to support the idea. In an article written by Mike Rowe, he discusses the “skills gap,” and provides facts to support it. “Back in 2009, 12 million people were out of work,” he said, “But then, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics quietly announces that companies were struggling to fill 2.1 million skilled positions.” So, he goes on to conclude that millions of opportunities were essentially being ignored, most of which opportunities did not require a diploma, but a skill. Why was that?
Along with the “skills gap,” comes the idea of a knowledge gap. The stigma around blue collar work remains that it is for a less educated, and lower class people who are covered in dirt, and live paycheck to paycheck. But, this picture created of the blue collar working man/woman is not created by facts, but instead molded from preconceived ideas created on feelings. What most do not know, is that there are many blue-collar jobs that come with great pay, a career path, and great benefits, including flexibility of hours. It’s also “meaningful work,” says Rowe.
Discussed in another USA TODAY article titled, Where the jobs are: The new blue collar, twenty-one-year-old, Joseph Poole will make more than $100,000 in wages and overtime by the end of the year, monitoring the manufacturing process at Chevron Phillips petrochemical plant in Houston, a job he landed with a two-year course at a local community college. This 6-figure salary is quite often more than the ceiling of some jobs requiring a 4-year degree, and if it is below their ceiling, it very unlikely to reach a salary of that scale by 21 years old. This is just one example of the great success potential for hands-on, blue-collar workers. Among other examples are multi-million-dollar construction, remodeling and contracting companies, welders, electricians, manufacturers, etc.
In an episode of Mike Rowe’s Hot Under the Blue Collar, Rowe interviews Scott Vigue, a Franchise owner who’s been in the plumbing business for 27 years. Vigue left high school in the 10th grade to work with his dad, and is now a business owner of a 23-million-dollar company, with 110 employees. “So many people talk about the trades as a job,” said Rowe, “they never look at is as a pathway into a business, and obviously, that’s what you’ve done here.” During this episode, and interview with Vigue, Rowe shows living proof to bust the myth that “the trades don’t offer a path to success.”
At The Brothers that just do Gutters, we believe in providing career paths for our skilled laborers that we call a “skills ladder.” With this, they can see exactly what education, training, and tasks they need to master to move up, and receive a raise. We understand the importance of negating the negative stigma that the trades is “just a job,” and we value the skills our installers possess.
Both Ken and Ryan, Owners at The Brothers that just do Gutters, initially went the “degree route” themselves. Ken attended college for teaching, and Ryan for fine arts and graphic design. But after trying these fields out for some time following graduation, neither of them saw growth potential or felt fully fulfilled. It was then that Ken decided to become a skilled laborer, and eventually a business owner. He saw, early on, the pathway Rowe mentioned above that this blue-collar job could bridge into business, this pathway most can’t see. When Ken later brought Ryan into the business, he too was able to see the potential and vision for their future together as business owners. If we fast forward to today, The Brothers that just do Gutters is a franchise model with multiple locations, heading towards becoming a nationwide gutter franchise. If you asked high school, or even college Ken and Ryan where they saw themselves in 10 years, we can guarantee this wouldn’t have been it, but we can also guarantee that they wouldn’t change it now.
When stigmatizing blue-collar jobs, it is important to do your research and gather facts, before assuming that skilled labor is for the lesser. There are many opportunities within middle-skilled jobs, with more to come in 2017!
According to a USA TODAY analysis of local data from Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. and CareerBuilder, “By 2017, an estimated 2.5 million new, middle-skill jobs like Poole’s are expected to be added to the workforce, accounting for nearly 40% of all job growth.”