Straight Talk From Steve: Shop Class
August 3, 2023
High School shop classes are beginning to make a comeback. For those of us over the age of 50 shop classes were considered a high school staple, but many high schools have since retired these classes and switched to technology classes. According to the National Center of Education Statistics, this trend of students taking fewer credits in shop classes started in the 1990s. The result of students taking fewer shop classes over the years is that demand has now gone up for people working in trade industries, such as electricians, plumbers, welders and building contractors.
Nebraska does not fare well when it comes to supporting skilled workers in these kinds of trades. For example, Nebraska ranks 41 out of the 50 states for the best places for electricians to work. The average income of an electrician in Nebraska is only $40,237 according to Zippia. Nebraska is home to 2,810 plumbing companies, but Iowa has 3,326 companies, Kansas has 3,371, and Colorado has 5,457. So, Nebraska needs to improve in this area.
The primary reason that people avoid the trades is the desire to obtain a college degree. According to the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, those who graduate with a bachelor's degree still have an 84 percent higher earning potential than those with only a high school diploma. Obtaining that bachelor's degree usually results in a wage increase of $36,000 or more.
The tide is beginning to turn in favor of those working in the skilled trades. According to the most recent JOLTS report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job openings in the skilled trades climbed during the months of April and May even though overall job openings declined. Demand for workers in the skilled trades is increasing, and when demand goes up, so do the wages.
Now might be a good time to consider training for a job in one of the skilled trade industries. Consider the fact that the Regents at the University of Nebraska this year had to face a $27 million budget deficit for next year. To make up for the loss President Ted Carter decided to increase student tuition by 3.5 percent. In-state tuition and fees at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln (UNL) will run $10,108 for the next academic school year. After you add in food, housing, personal expenses, books, supplies, and loan fees, the grand total for the year is $28,594.
Going into a skilled trade has the potential to give students a big head-start in life as an adult. For example, instead of paying back $100,000 or more in student loans along with interest, a students could get trained in a skilled trade for a fraction of that amount and become debt free in just a few short years. For example, a student at Western Nebraska Community College attends school for only two years at $106.50 per credit hour compared to $268 per credit hour at UNL.
The growing demand for skilled trade workers is already beginning to benefit those working in the industry. For example, Tyler Sasse was a high school dropout who became certified as a welder and started his own welding school in Gillette, Wyoming called the Western Welding Academy. Nolan Brunn, who is only 22-years old, recently graduated from Western Welding Academy, and he is now making $30 per hour and up to $70,000 per year as a certified welder. Not bad for someone with only a trade school degree.