Skilled trades offer path to prosperity

Once, college was seen as the destination for the smartest high school students.  Now, however, some of the smartest young people may be those who decide not to go to a traditional college, but instead pursue a career in the skilled trades.

Today marks National Tradesmen Day, giving us a chance both to honor those employed in the skilled trades and to let young people know that for many, a trades job might offer a path to prosperity with well paying, interesting work.  Most skilled trades positions do not require a four year college degree, allowing workers to also enter the workforce faster.

According to AOL Jobs, six sought-after skilled trades positions include plumber, electrician, auto mechanic, construction manager, HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration) and aviation maintenance.  The skilled trades field faces an impending worker shortage as older workers retire, meaning the demand for these jobs will only increase.  While 44 percent of the overall labor force is over 45, in the trades that number is 53 percent.

There are a number of avenues available for those interested in a career in the skilled trades.  Some community colleges offer programs and at $46 per unit, or less than $150 for a typical three unit class, California’s community colleges are still one of the best deals in the nation.  Contra Costa County’s Los Medanos College offers a Process Technology, or PTEC program, that trains students for in demand jobs at local refineries and large factories.  These positions pay $45,000 to $65,000 to start and many former students earn six figure salaries after just a few years on the job.

At the heart of the North Dakota shale oil boom, Bismarck State College’s National Energy Center of Excellence offers affordable online degree and certificate programs to students throughout the nation. With California’s Monterey Shale estimated by the Department of Energy to hold 15 billion barrels of oil, the University of  Southern California (USC) says this resource could create 2.8 million new job opportunities here. Those with the right training can expect to be among the first in line for these good jobs.

Apprenticeship programs offer opportunities to learn on the job, working alongside experienced tradesmen.  Those interested in an apprenticeship program can contact trade associations such as the Associated General Contractors and Associated Builders and Contractors.  Trade unions including the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the National Electrical Contractors Association also offer apprenticeship programs.

The California Dream has always been driven by men and women willing to roll up their sleeves and create wealth by contributing something of value to the economy.  Highways, dams, factories and refineries were built and our oil and gas resources were seen as a blessing to be developed for their economic benefits.

The real economy must still be at the foundation of long term economic prosperity.  Young people should seriously consider careers in the skilled trades, and policymakers should encourage the creation of even more of these jobs, with access to abundant, reliable and affordable power and smarter regulations that encourage, rather than hinder, prosperity.

The Coalition of Energy Users includes 5,000 California citizens and small business owners, many of whom work in the trucking and construction industries and form a critical pillar of our state’s real economy.

This Tradesmen Day, if you’re looking for a new job opportunity, a trades job might be a great way to start earning good money relatively quickly in a stimulating environment. Even if you are not interested in a job change, take a moment to think about all of the items you enjoy that were made in a factory or brought to you on a truck.  Take a moment to appreciate the hard working men and women of the skilled trades.

Ed’s Note: Eric Eisenhammer is the Founder of the Coalition of Energy Users.


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