Skilled Trades are in high demand across the nation. Over the past few decades, the shift towards office and computer work has created a growing gap. Though people often worry about automation and robotics replacing human workers, skilled labor is not at risk. On this page, you’ll learn about how to get into skilled trades, skilled trades apprenticeship programs, and careers like masonry, electrician, and construction. However, you’ll also find info on high-tech career paths such as solar or wind energy.
Skilled Trade careers offer numerous opportunities that office jobs will not allow. If you like to work with your hands, work outside, or move around then skilled trade jobs may be for you.
In previous decades, the greatest job growth in the US was found in the white collar sectors. However, as of 2018, blue collar businesses have reported a need for more workers, with some often unable to fill positions.
Blue collar workers also experience rapid wage growth during their career and experience more job satisfaction then white collar counterparts.
For example, plumbers made a median salary of $52,910 in 2018. In addition, plumber salaries are and have been rising since 2010. In 2018, electricians had a median salary of $55,190 and carpenters had a median salary of $46,590. Both jobs have enjoyed rising salaries for the last 10 years as well.
Skilled trade careers may enjoy the benefits of trade unions. In addition to offering training and recruitment, unions seek to improve pay, benefits, working conditions, or social and political status for their workers. Unions offer job security that many white collar organizations do not experience.
Most skilled trade careers allow you to work until retirement age. Depending on the career, there may be room for upwards mobility out of the more laborious positions. Many people who start in physically demanding positions go on to create their own businesses and manage younger, less experienced workers.
Skilled trade apprenticeship programs are fairly common in trade careers; they allow newcomers to receive training and gain hands-on experience while earning wages. Apprenticeships are also a good way to learn if you’re interested in an industry, since there isn’t much commitment to trying the career. Apprenticeship.gov is an excellent national resource for finding skilled trade apprenticeship programs around you.
If you’re not quite ready for an apprenticeship in a specific trade, try connecting with someone in the industry and ask to shadow them for a day before you decide to do a formal program. Ask about potential job opportunities that would allow you to observe their work and environment before you receive training.
Explore the resources below to find links to local trade unions or trade associations for the industry of your choosing. Trade associations and unions are groups of workers in similar industries who help negotiate better wages, working conditions, and opportunities for their members. Unions also help standardize methods and practices across their industries while working as large networks for their members. For more info about local unions or trade associations, check out this list of US Industry trade groups and trade associations.
Trade careers report a high amount of job satisfaction. Out of 412 construction workers surveyed, 65% rated their career satisfaction between 8-10, with 10 being the highest. Many of the workers attributed their satisfaction to excellent pay/benefits, camaraderie with coworkers, stimulating projects and work, the usefulness of their work, and a state of constant learning.
Many white collar workers are plagued by pressures of unpaid overtime or experience wage theft. Since work can often be taken home or done after hours, workers often feel pressured to finish projects despite the negative consequences of doing so. With skilled trade careers, boundaries such as job sites and materials help prevent work from being taken home. Strict federal and state laws dictate hours, locations, and protocol for jobs like construction or electrical work. A work-life balance is much easier to maintain when work remains at the job site.
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