Youthentity column: Not college-bound? Consider career opportunities in the trades |

Youthentity column: Not college-bound? Consider career opportunities in the trades

As we head into another school year, we can’t help but think of what the future might hold for high school students during the 2020-21 academic year — particularly juniors and seniors, who will soon be thrust into the real world to forge their path as independent adults.

Unprecedented events point to an unpredictable economy, and an overall “new normal,” elements of which will remain in place long after a coronavirus vaccine is finally introduced. For students looking to enter the workforce immediately after high school rather than pursuing a four-year degree, career opportunities within the trades deserves consideration.

One of the classes offered through Youthentity’s high school Career Academy career exploration program, Structure Design & Building Industry, helps students understand the opportunities within the building industry, including careers as electricians, welders, masons, plumbers and other construction-related jobs.

Introducing kids to the trades has long been important to our organization because the opportunity to build a stable career in this field is substantial. Yet, when kids are presented with career options, the scope is often limited to jobs such as doctors, teachers, lawyers — while nationally, high-paying skilled trades jobs sit empty.

Recently the trades have been covered as a declining profession. Yet most of us will need to hire a plumber, electrician, or general fix-it person many times throughout our lives. These skilled jobs can demand high hourly rates, a flexible schedule, opportunity for advancement within a company or as an independent contractor, and often include a relatively small up-front investment in terms of education and certifications needed to enter the field as a working professional.

As part of our Career Academy, we also ensure that our students understand the financial aspects of the training different careers require so that they can make informed decisions about their futures.

A few of the examples of entry-level jobs in the building industry and coordinating compensation:

• An entry-level journeyman carpenter earns an average of $25.23/hour nationally, is eligible for overtime, and can expect total pay of $35,807 – $89,983 annually. *

• An entry-level electrician makes an average of $25.28/hour nationally, is eligible for overtime, and reports total potential pay as $38,313 – $83,125 per year. *

• Though not technically considered a trade job, for comparison’s sake an entry-level civil engineer with a degree but little to no experience earns an average of $58,231 nationally and can expect total pay of $44,771- $75,599 per year. *

Source: Payscale

Now more than ever, those entering the workforce would be wise to consider their return on educational investment. College degrees, while valuable for many, don’t always offer the most optimal ROI (hence, the ongoing debate over student loan debt). Nationally, the pay of all construction workers averaged $57,000, 8% higher than the average for all private sector employees. Colorado construction workers averaged $55,300 – 2% more than private sector employees in the state.

The building industry offers a wealth of career options, many of which offer long-term stability and are well-paid. We’re encouraged by the ever-growing trades-oriented training and educational options — a sign that the trades are gaining recognition as the highly valuable and worthy careers that they are.

Next month: A look into jobs and careers offered within the hospitality industry.

Kirsten McDaniel is executive director for Youthentity, which submits a monthly column for publication in the Post Independent.

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