A new report from the Washington State Auditor's Office shows that "good jobs in the skilled trades are going begging because students are being almost universally steered to bachelor's degrees."
That report, found here, was highlighted by NPR this past week in a story that also pointed to the experience of students and teachers in the Seattle area:
While a shortage of workers is pushing wages higher in the skilled trades, the financial return from a bachelor's degree is softening, even as the price — and the average debt into which it plunges students — keeps going up.
But high school graduates have been so effectively encouraged to get a bachelor's that high-paid jobs requiring shorter and less expensive training are going unfilled. This affects those students and also poses a real threat to the economy.
"Parents want success for their kids," said Mike Clifton, who teaches machining at the Lake Washington Institute of Technology, about 20 miles from Seattle. "They get stuck on [four-year bachelor's degrees], and they're not seeing the shortage there is in tradespeople until they hire a plumber and have to write a check."
And as Construction Citizen readers are well aware, the problem is not just in Washington State. It’s nationwide:
Seventy-percent of construction companies nationwide are having trouble finding qualified workers, according to the Associated General Contractors of America; in Washington, the proportion is 80 percent.
There are already more trade jobs like carpentry, electrical, plumbing, sheet-metal work and pipe-fitting than Washingtonians to fill them, the state auditor reports. Many pay more than the state's average annual wage of $54,000.
Construction, along with health care and personal care, will account for one-third of all new jobs through 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There will also be a need for new plumbers and new electricians. And, as politicians debate a massive overhaul of the nation's roads, bridges and airports, the U.S. Department of Education reports that there will be 68 percent more job openings in infrastructure-related fields in the next five years than there are people training to fill them.
The full NPR report is here.
Photo courtesy Sy Bean/The Hechinger Report