In high schools throughout America, shop class has been eliminated
and kids are often told that the only way to be successful is to have a
four-year college degree. I reject this approach and, to the contrary,
believe we need to put shop class back in high schools and instill in
young people a heightened sense of pride and purpose for entering
careers in the skilled trades.
This important debate is
illuminated by a Bureau of Labor Statistics study showing 48 percent of
college graduates working in jobs that don’t require a four-year degree.
As you read this today, there are young people throughout America who
have four-year liberal arts degrees, thousands of dollars in debt, and
are serving coffee at Starbucks or working part-time at the mall.
believe that many of these young people would have been better off with
a two-year skilled trade or technical education with actual skills to
secure a well-paying job and many opportunities for upward mobility.
example, I recently visited Pioneer Pipe in Marietta and learned that
last year the company paid 60 of its welders over $150,000 and two of
its welders over $200,000. The owner said he has had to turn down orders
because he can’t find enough skilled welders.
As baby boomers are
retiring, I frequently hear about the shortage of welders,
pipe-fitters, electricians, carpenters, machinists and other skilled
trades in many parts of Ohio.
According to a recent Skills Gap
Survey by the Manufacturing Institute, approximately 600,000
manufacturing jobs are unfilled nationally because employers can’t find
In order to fill these jobs, we need to
encourage high school students who show an interest in making and
building things with a willingness to sometimes get their hands dirty.
Ohio has some terrific examples of what needs to be happening throughout the country.
been to the heavy equipment lab at the Warren County Career Center,
where they have a mock construction site teaching students how to
operate everything from high-tech machinery to bulldozers and backhoes.
the Career and Technology Education Centers of Licking County they are
teaching students high tech manufacturing skills in welding and
robotics. Schools like these put the tools on the tool belts of Ohioans
in order to prepare them for jobs that are needed in today’s economy.
putting shop class back in high schools, increasing access to technical
and vocational education and bringing pride and profile to the men and
women who work in these jobs, we can help inspire the kids and grandkids
of America to restore the tradition of hard work of previous
There is a quiet crisis upon us and in order to
combat it and prosper as a country, we must work together to encourage
young Americans to pursue careers in manufacturing and the skilled
Josh Mandel is Treasurer of Ohio.