The road less traveled: Why students should consider skilled trades after graduation

The third Friday of September, we celebrate Skilled Trades Day, a day dedicated to recognizing the invaluable contributions of skilled tradespeople to our society. This day provides the perfect opportunity to reflect on why students should seriously consider entering the skilled trades after graduation.

High Demand for Skilled Workers: The skilled trades encompass a wide range of professions, from electricians and plumbers to welders and carpenters. As the baby boomer generation retires, a significant skills gap is emerging. This presents a golden opportunity for new graduates to step into these roles, secure employment quickly, and enjoy job stability.

Competitive Salaries: Contrary to the misconception that blue-collar workers earn less, skilled trades professionals can earn excellent salaries. In many cases, they out earn their college-educated peers. Skilled workers often benefit from union representation, which negotiates fair wages and benefits on their behalf.

Shorter Training Periods: While college graduates may spend four or more years earning a degree and accumulating student debt, skilled trades programs generally take two to five years. During this time, students earn while they learn, receiving practical, on-the-job training, often working with local employers during internships and practicums.

Hands-On Learning: Skilled trades emphasize hands-on learning, which appeals to many students who thrive in practical, real-world environments. Working with tools and equipment fosters a deep understanding of one’s trade and allows for continuous skill development.

Job Satisfaction: Skilled tradespeople often find immense job satisfaction in seeing tangible results from their work. Whether it’s constructing a building, fixing a broken appliance, or wiring a home, they witness the direct impact of their labor on the world around them.

Entrepreneurial Opportunities: Many skilled trades professionals eventually start their own businesses. Electricians, plumbers, and contractors often find entrepreneurial success by offering specialized services in their communities.

Diverse Career Paths: The skilled trades offer diverse career paths, allowing individuals to specialize in areas they are passionate about, such as automotive mechanics, HVAC systems, or woodworking.

Avoiding Student Debt: With the rising cost of higher education, student loan debt has become a significant burden for many graduates. By pursuing a career in the skilled trades, students can bypass this financial strain and enter the workforce debt-free. In fact, students in Iowa may be eligible to study tuition-free, thanks to the Last Dollar Scholar program. (Contact the Admissions team for more information.)

As we celebrate Skilled Trades Day, let us encourage students to explore the world of skilled trades as a viable and rewarding career option. The demand for skilled workers is stronger than ever and choosing a trade after graduation can lead to a successful and fulfilling future, making this day a perfect reminder of the benefits that await those who embrace this path.

Want to learn more? Come see what these programs have to offer – check out the manufacturing and skilled trades programs at Marshalltown Community College, including my program: Electro-Mechanical. We hope to see you on campus!


Eric Deaton is an electro-mechanical instructor

at Marshalltown Community College.


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