Business Operations

Business Operations

Skilled Trades See Interest Uptick

More young people are choosing skilled trade jobs after high school, The Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports.

What’s going on: “Enrollment in vocational training programs is surging as overall enrollment in community colleges and four-year institutions has fallen. The number of students enrolled in vocational-focused community colleges rose 16% last year to its highest level since the National Student Clearinghouse began tracking such data in 2018. The ranks of students studying construction trades rose 23% during that time, while those in programs covering HVAC and vehicle maintenance and repair increased 7%.”

Why it’s important: The trades, including manufacturing, have experienced a worker shortage in recent years as the older generation of employees retires.

  • Finding and retaining quality talent is consistently a top business challenge among manufacturers, according to the NAM’s Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey, a quarterly polling of the industry.
  • But now, trade-apprenticeship demand is surging, perhaps a signal that positions will start to fill.

Perception change: For many years the vocational education wing of one high school in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, was called “greaser hall,” but lately that’s started to change, a counselor there told the Journal.

  • “[B]usinesses have raised funds and donated new equipment, including robotic arms … [and] those classrooms now sit at the building’s main entrance. ‘There’s still a presumption that four-year college is the gold standard, but it doesn’t take as much work to get people to buy into the viability of other options,’ [he said].”

The last word: Indeed, the Manufacturing Institute, the NAM’s 501(c)3 nonprofit workforce development and education affiliate, is seeing significant growth in its FAME initiative, an earn-while-you-learn training program with more than 40 chapters in 16 states—and more forming all the time. FAME, which was founded by Toyota and is now led by the MI, is truly the American model of skills training, according to MI President and Executive Director Carolyn Lee.

  • “FAME is training thousands of global best technicians nationwide and the number of program participants is on the rise,” she said. “This is good news for manufacturing, which sorely needs talent to continue to make the many, many things people use every day.”
View More