Submitted by Don Doman
I recently wrote an article about computer programs and robots possibly eliminating careers in the near future, and that’s true, but right now some jobs have minimal applicants and in a few years there looks like major shortages of qualified people in the trades.
This is nothing new. Back in 2011 during the middle of the last major recession the Wall Street Journal in their article “Help Wanted: In Unexpected Twist, Some Skilled Jobs Go Begging” had this to say, “Ferrie Bailey’s job should be easy: hiring workers amid the worst stretch of unemployment since the Depression. A recruiter for Union Pacific Corp., she has openings to fill, the kind that sometimes seem to have all but vanished: secure, well-paying jobs with good benefits that don’t require a college degree.”
For those who choose college, the road looks uphill . . . and a bleak post-college existence of almost indentured servant status.
Campus Explorer in their 2017 on-line article Costs Of A Bachelor’s Degree Program listed these figures:
1. Public Four-Year Colleges – National Average: $25,588 per year
2. Private Four-Year Not-For-Profit College – National Average: $85,296 per year
3. Private Four-Year For-Profit Colleges – National Average: $62,644 per year
Those numbers mean that college graduates who don’t win scholarships, choose not to say at home, and stay on campus, could owe $100,000 – $250,000 or more when they enter the job market.
Computers and graphics capture the imagination. Everybody wants to be a gamer, but few are interested in the nuts and bolts that keep everything running. This means opportunity for some people. However, people who get the right training and choose to work their way up the ladder by increasing their skills can do well. By attending vocational schools they can learn the basics and then on-the-job training can do the rest, while they get paid to learn and do their job.
Bob Larson of Bob Larson Plumbing in Tacoma, says, “The trades won’t be automated in the foreseeable future, and are experiencing major shortages right now. The average age of journeyman plumbers is 54. As they retire, and fewer young people are filling their places, the law of supply and demand suggests that it would be a good career choice right now.”
Plumbers, painters, electricians, etc. are almost always in demand. Fewer people in the trades works well for other firms, however. Some companies like Chinook Services out of Edmonds pick up the slack and provide workers with in-demand handyman skills for service and maintenance around the home and office (small and commercial).
I agree with Bob. Earlier this year I finished a set of “refresher course” training videos for the Land Surveyors’ Association of Washington. I had a chance to learn about their work. Right now they offer a one or two-year degree program at the Renton Technology College. “There are no formal entry requirements in the program, but a high school education with competence in basic math and spoken and written English is recommended. It is not absolutely necessary to be fluent in algebra and trigonometry as these items are covered rigorously in the program.” Many surveyor firms have “baby boomer” principals who will be retiring, soon. Not only does land surveying provide constant updating as property sells and trades, but if global warming continues and affects tides and tide lands, the need for up-to-date surveys could be incredible.
There are many possibilities for the right people. Contractors and sub-contractors constantly search for workers who can pass a drug test (imperative), and have skills to offer. People who like to build things, make this look better, or make things run, or can fix something that’s broken, should continue to do well on into the future.