Changing the Societal Stigma Around Trades

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by Dick Wilcox | August 27, 2019

For many decades, trades have been seen as the avenue people pursue when college or university isn’t a good fit. Attending a college or a university is seen as the appropriate next step after high school, one that will land you a good paying job and the skills needed to make it in the real world. Not everyone will benefit from a college education, especially as college tuition continues to rise. So why is trade school education less celebrated than college enrollment? 

We need to change the stigma surrounding trades and start acknowledging just how much we need new professionals and journeymen in trades to maintain a healthy economy and society.

The Trade Industry Is Essential to a Successful Society


Construction, development and growth are all around us. The construction industry itself is a vital component of the world we live in today. In order for our surroundings to keep up with our fast-paced world, improvements must constantly be made to buildings, streets, and city infrastructure. 

According to ConstructConnect, total nonresidential construction grew by 5% in 2018, marking the seventh year in a row of growth. The only problem is the shrinking workforce. 

The trade industry is aging, and almost half of the entire industry will retire in the coming years. If we don’t fix the stigma surrounding trade, the workforce will decline, leaving fewer and fewer industry experts. 

From plumbers to project managers and engineers, our industry is in need of new professionals to fill positions to meet the current demand and forecasted growth. 


Trades Trajectory for Students


Educator Elizabeth Broadbent put her experience into plain terms that resonate with many in our industry.

When I was a kid, vocational school or trade school had a certain stigma. Because if you wanted to be “successful,” you had to go to college. That’s what our parents told us. That’s what our teachers told us. That’s what everyone told us, had told us since we were small.

Just like parents and teachers talk about the benefits of a college education with high school students, we must also provide them with the benefits of trade schools and apprenticeships. 

Students who attend a four-year college or university are often times struck with a crippling amount of debt after graduation. Or worse, students attend a college for a few semesters without finding their passion or doing well in their studies, and drop out, thousands of dollars later with little to show for their experience. 

Students who attend a two-year trade school can walk out with a diploma as well as the knowledge, experience and connections needed to enter the workforce. 

Another way to gain experience in the trade industry is through apprenticeships. The opportunities provided through these experiences can help a student figure out where their skills and interests lie, ensuring that they’re entering the field that is best suited for them. The benefit is that an apprenticeship can lead to employee satisfaction, because of the experience of already working with the company. 


Success in the Trade Industry Requires Constant Training


Advancements in the construction industry are continuously being made to everything from technology and tools to on-site systems and safety protocols. The constant improvements require workers to go through ongoing training to provide quality work that is effective, efficient, and safe for both workers and project owners. 

It's no surprise then that the companies in the industry became the most successful because of the resources they invest in their employees. Continuing the education and professional development allows companies to continue to be at the front line of innovative solutions for customers and their projects.

Here at VHV, we've seen the need for constant training - for our own employees, and for other trades professionals in our region. In order to support the continued growth of our industry, we've implemented NCCER programs and now their standardized education is offered across multiple specializations.

Dick Wilcox

About Dick Wilcox

Dick Wilcox is the current President of VHV. Dick is an industry leader within New England for mechanical construction contracting as well as multiple green building initiatives, and works closely with statewide efficiency partners.

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