A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

The Death of Shop Class and What it Means for Our Skilled Labor Workforce

The debate over whether every child in Texas and America should be on a track to go to a four-year university is heating up. The arguments for and against have been passionate as youth unemployment hits a 60-year high and student-loan debt approaches $1 trillion (and default rates are rising quickly).

“These hard economic times have made it even more difficult for student borrowers to repay their loans, and that’s why implementing education reforms and protecting the maximum Pell grant is more important than ever,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Given all this, more people are asking whether the “college-for-all” mantra is having an effect that amounts to the opposite of what was originally intended.

Forbes contributor Tara Tiger Brown asks: “What is America going to do without skilled workers who can build and fix things?”  She laments the “death of shop class”  in California and around the nation.  She writes:

“There is no training for teachers going through university to learn how to teach shop.  This trend isn’t limited to California, according to John Chocholak who has testified in front of California State Assembly and Congress on the subject of shop class.He is seeing shop class killed in Florida, Wisconsin, Texas and many other states.”

The question of how the United States can have high unemployment and a skilled-labor shortage simultaneously is probably most easily understood when you think about how society views education and how funding is allocated in our schools.  Where is the interest being sparked among young people to pursue blue collar professions?  According to Brown, 75% of students in California are not going to enter a four-year university, but 100% of them are placed in courses meant to prepare them for the possibility that they will.  She continues:

“With all the money that is poured into high school sports teams you would think that every kid was going to turn into a professional player.  Without early exposure to shop class many kids are going to lose out on the opportunity to discover whether or not they like making things, and the inclination to pursue a career as a drafter, carpenter, welder or auto mechanic.”

Your thoughts are welcome in the comments.


Anonymous's picture

It is and has been difficult to recruit young workers into the skilled trades due to the dire predictions of the past 10 to 15 years that said manufacuring is dead in the US, that one working with their hands isn't quite good enough and the "knowledge economy" would be the only thing that will save America. The death of this country will not be the lack of computer skills, it will be the lack of good plumbers.

Mark P. Martinez
Pierce County Building & Construction Trades Council AFL-CIO

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