How Will Lower Trade School Enrollment Affect Millwork?
As high schools around the country continue to push four-year higher education on their students, the country is experiencing a notable shift: more schools are pushing expensive university educations while dropping vocational education programs.
So, what does this mean for vocational careers?
They may become short staffed. Katherine Martinko writes in Tree Hugger that this shift toward higher education is detrimental for students who are more apt to have careers as countertop builders, quartz countertop distributors, welders, and mill workers.
“While it may sound good, it’s a shortsighted and overly generalized goal to have for every young person, as they all come with varied skill sets, strengths, and interests,” she writes. “Some kids are cut out for college; others are not, and there shouldn’t be anything wrong with that.”
In the latest federal effort to offset this trend, the Obama administration allocated $17 million in loans and grants aimed at low-income students looking to attend non-traditional training programs. This means that students who are unable to afford vocational and specified skill programs may have new access to job training. And since the vocation industry is in need, this could be beneficial.
As manufacturing has shifted overseas, many traditionally middle-class jobs have disappeared. However, at the same time, skilled workers are desperately needed in fields like welding, which often struggles to fill open positions.
As for the millwork industry, there are several benefits of encouraging vocational training in high schools and postgraduate programs:
- Stable Career Options: By learning a millwork trade, students can enter into a more sustainable career program. The average U.S. kitchen has 25 square feet worth of counter space, and construction is always in demand. Since stone work will always be necessary, they do not need to worry about their job becoming irrelevant. Plus, by definition, domestic construction jobs can’t be offshored.
- Immediate Work: Millwork also offers students the option to start work following graduation without the burden of college applications, exams, and student loans. There are a number of career opportunities, such as working in construction or for quartz countertop distributors, that can lift financial and cognitive pressure off of students, while also promising a valuable career path.
- Domestic Manufacturing: By increasing the number of U.S. workers in this trade, the industry can stay on U.S. soil. This means fewer outsourcing necessities and a stronger economy.
The key to keeping the millwork industry strong? Stronger vocational programs in schools. By making vocation more accessible, students can understand that there are options other than four-year universities. Martinko writes that it’s all about changing perspective — valuing quartz countertop manufacturers and masons just as much as lawyers and psychologists.
“Imagine if things were different — if technical, physical, and labor-based jobs were not made out to be somehow inferior to academic-based pursuits, nor viewed as a remedial track geared mostly toward minority and working-class students; if aviation maintenance, auto body technology, audio production, and welding were esteemed as highly as medicine, law, and engineering?”
Then we might see progress.