Why Are Technically Skilled Jobs Still A Stigma In the United States?
Currently there is a problem with schooling in the United States, which is that too much emphasis is put on students going to college and not enough going to trade schools for technical skills. Growing up in a suburb of NYC, in a relatively wealthy area, it was taught the only way to succeed in life was a 4 year college and anything less was considered a failure. The only students who were pushed into trade schools were behavioral problems or students that didn’t have the mental capacity to pass high school. The irony of the situation is, most of the jobs that are seen in our community as blue collar or undesirable, end up making more money than a large portion of the people who ended up going to a 4 year institution.
Many of the future electricians, plumbers and technically skilled workers that either went to a school or joined an apprenticeship out of high school in my area average around 75k-80k a year because they are in such demand. In fact , when the government ranks jobs that currently have shortages, year after year technical jobs are in demand. So the real question is why are people avoiding these jobs?
A major factor has to do with there still being a stigma against blue collar labor in many areas of the country. In a way people consider anyone who works with their hands to be of a lower class and intelligence than themselves, which is often not the case at all. I was never in the group of people who believed that our public schools are doing what is best for the students and this is one of those cases where I feel that shows. Public schools want to earn a better reputation by saying things like “99% of our students went to a 4 year college” when the reality is many of those students will struggle finding jobs and paying back a massive amount of loans in the future.
As part of one of my economics classes, we looked at the performance of specific degrees, certifications and their estimated return over the years. When using averages, almost all bachelor’s degrees paid off in the long term , however most of the time the return on technical degrees was much greater than many majors. Most people probably aren’t aware of these statistics, but then again most people don’t look at a college degree as an investment.
Mike Rowe gives a great speech about how following your passions as a job is sometimes the worst advice someone can give you. Sometimes going after a job that you can learn to love that can give you the income to pursue your passions in your free time, is the best thing you can do. You don’t need a degree in literature to be a writer, or a degree in art to be an artist, so why pay ludicrous tuition fees to get a degree that will leave you with very few opportunities for a job after you graduate. Supporting yourself and having money to pursue your passions when not working is a much better outcome than working two jobs for minimum wage, not having the money or the time for the passion at all.
We as a country need to start putting importance on these jobs that are in shortage , in the high schools we attend. Teachers and institutions need to stop putting an emphasis on the idea that a 4 year institution is the only way one can be successful. I know the idea of public education is just to pump out as much people into the workforce as possible, but better structured electives need to be offered to students. My school had a plethora of different electives and besides woodcutting not a single one was catered to potentially introducing a student to alternate employment opportunities that did not require a bachelors degree. Not only do I think this is a huge injustice to the students, but its an injustice to our country and the people who do some of the most important and hardest work in our societies. Without the people who are doing the technical work, we wouldn’t have the infrastructure and quality of life we have today.
I think its about time we revaluated how we as a society look at certain jobs and have the government and public school systems openly support alternative opportunities for students, outside the realm of academics. The labor shortages that we will most likely see in the near future are going to be a direct result of the massive push towards college that has occurred in the last 30 years in this country. There should be no shame or stigma on a job that provides such a large amount of value to our communities.