The Trends of the Trade

Heather Carson 06/01/2024

Trade school enrollment is on the rise. Many trade schools have seen as much as a 19.3 percent rise in enrollment over the last several years. This is good news given the labor shortages in areas like construction and auto mechanics.

Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, when I was in high school, it was unthinkable to not go to college. In my working-class neighborhood, a college education was viewed as a way out of poverty. Jobs in construction, welding, and the like were viewed as less desirable. They’re hard physical work and don’t necessarily come with the promise of moving up the economic ladder.

However, things are changing. The trend toward a four-year college degree is decreasing as students and parents have begun to view a degree with less enthusiasm. The value of a degree has inevitably gone down as the hurdles for admittance have relaxed to accommodate a more egalitarian ideal. Education is no longer an elite pursuit. The prestige that used to accompany a degree has decreased. As was perceptively pointed out in the movie The Incredibles, “Everyone can be super! And when everyone’s super . . . no one will be.” With about two million college graduates in 2023 alone, the competition in the job market is fierce. A degree simply does not set a person apart anymore as especially qualified. No one is “super” anymore.

The cost has become prohibitive as well. One can expect to carry an average debt of more than $38,000 after graduating. The average salary post graduation from college is between $30,000–$50,000 depending on the state. The average cost of living in the United States is more than $60,000 per year. No wonder students are crying out for debt relief! The numbers simply do not add up.

Meanwhile, the average income of an entry level construction worker is nearly $40,000 per year. Carpentry work uses an apprenticeship model. While it still takes about four years to complete, apprentices are paid for their work, and most finish without debt. Entry level salary for carpentry is between $30,000–$40,000 per year. If you are physically capable and get a sense of satisfaction from working with your hands, forgoing a four-year college education may be a better option.

The homeschooling community is hot on the tail of this trend. I am hearing of more and more young, homeschooled teen boys pursuing a trade profession. Welding is increasingly popular, but carpentry, construction, electrical work, and more are seen as very desirable means of providing for themselves and a family. While many public schools continue to push students toward a college degree as the only means of success in life, homeschoolers feel freed up to think outside the box and pursue what interests them and better suits their gifts. For some, that means learning a trade.

There doesn’t seem to be the stigma connected to these professions that I recall when I was growing up. Trade professionals are respected and seen as competent and relevant for meeting real-life needs and challenges. This lines up with how most homeschoolers view their education—as distinctly connected to real life. They’ve never been stuck in a classroom, and the transition into a trade job just feels natural.

Finding the right career, be it one that requires a college degree or follows the trend of pursuing a trade, can be a tough decision. It’s OK if your teens need a bit of help to assess what’s right for them. There are tests and assessments available to aid in this endeavor. One such test is the Holland Career Code Test, which suggests that individuals tend to choose careers that are in line with certain personality traits.

As our economic atmosphere shifts with the needs and demands of our culture, I am confident that homeschoolers will be on the forefront, challenging the status quo and stepping up to meet those demands.