OPINION: What happened to the bricklayers?

U.S. employers are finding it increasingly difficult to find skilled workers and workers aren't ready to join the changing workforce. (Bricklayer Masons/ Creative Commons)

U.S. employers are finding it increasingly difficult to find skilled workers and workers aren’t ready to join the changing workforce. (Bricklayer Masons / Creative Commons)

Nowadays it seems to be the standard for every young adult to attend college right after high school and start working for their degrees. Some are now even calling college the new high school considering how difficult it is to obtain a job without one. Should we be worried though that no one is dying to be a janitor?

Children are always told by their parents to be a doctor or lawyer. I don’t believe thats a bad thing, but why aren’t career fairs pushing for plumbers and factory workers? These unglamorous jobs hold society together, but to be quite honest I’m not going to push my child to be a refrigerator mechanic. It now seems looks like everyone knows we need these people, but no one wants to step up to the plate.

Colleges are be producing less and less students who are effectively able to join the U.S. workforce. A report conducted by the OCED and commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education entitled “Time for the U.S. to Reskill?” has found that a staggering 36 million adults in the U.S. are “low-skilled.” Most business leaders today agree that those entering the workforce are unprepared and with good reason.

When picking a major in college most students start out choosing the major of their choice, but once they view the workload that’s ahead of them, they end up choosing otherwise. For example, many students who would major in math or science could end up favoring social science , which has a workload that is perceived to be manageable, leading to a skill mismatch.

Another thing to think about is whether there are too many people attending college that shouldn’t really be there. Tons and tons of young adults are told to attend college, but not everyone is meant for college. Because of this, college classrooms are getting filled with people who don’t belong there.

This problem is getting so sufficiently serious that businesses are pushing Congress to address the issue of visas and help them hire more high-skilled foreigners. Unemployment in manufacturing is currently standing at a whopping 8.4 percent and according to the Labor Department there were 240,000 open jobs in manufacturing in August.

What are we supposed to do when employers refuse to teach necessary skill and workers have none to offer?

In Kentucky they started offering an AMT Program in partnership between Toyota Motor Manufacturing and Bluegrass Community and Technical College, where students can finish with an associate’s degree, but never set foot on campus because all the classes are held at Toyota’s manufacturing plant.

The Los Angeles Community College District has launched a workforce development committee of city officials and community leaders to figure out how to better prepare students for skills needed in the region.

This skilled worker shortage is showing us we have an opportunity to have new discussions with employers, legislators and colleges as more young adults enroll in secondary school, while enrollment in vocational and technical programs drop.

To meet the constantly changing demands of employers, we need to be more closely examine changes that make us ready for professional opportunities and celebrate skilled workers, making these careers seen as truly viable career options.

If we teach these skilled workers to keep making the world go round, I think it’s time to begin celebrating the plumbers and bricklayers of America.

Photo used with a CC BY 2.0 license.

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