More Gen Z workers choose trades over grades

by Renata

The trade industries seem to be making a dramatic comeback, mostly thanks to Generation Z.

A report from The Wall Street Journal shows dramatic increases in vocational training programs according to data presented by the National Student Clearinghouse. Last year, the number of students who had enrolled in community colleges with vocational focuses rose 16% – marking the highest level since data tracking began in 2018.

More specifically, the number of students in construction-focused trades rose 23% and the number of students in HVAC and vehicle maintenance rose 7%. The number of carpenters and electricians grew over the past decade and their median age simultaneously fell.

As for why these jobs are in such demand, the report lists multiple reasons – one of which is job security. The quick implementation of artificial intelligence in multiple careers has many flocking toward blue-collar jobs that they see as protected.

Another reason has to do with paid, on-the-job training. This is a common offering from different trade jobs. According to software company Jobber, 75% of high schoolers and college-age students expressed interest in such job training.

Others list the entrepreneurial factor in pursuing a trade job. Some are learning a trade to then launch his or her own business.

The increased enrollment for trade schools means that other universities are seeing a dip in registration numbers. In some cases, former college students are making the switch – and generally say they don’t see the need for a bachelor’s degree or anything higher.

Unfortunately, this appears to be true – at least according to a study from labor analytics firm Burning Glass Institute and Strada Education Foundation. The data in this study shows that up to 45% of college graduates remain underemployed even as far as 10 years after their graduation.