This article originally appeared in the Elizabethton Star.
Tennessee has a labor shortage in the skilled trades which means there is high demand in the construction and trade industries which offer rewarding high-paying careers. Over the next three years our state is projecting 315,000 job openings in the trades. With only one tradesperson set to enter the industry for every five that are retiring, it’s critical that we address the labor shortage for Tennessee to remain an economic powerhouse. And, these job openings mean amazing and wide-ranging job opportunities for those graduating from high school or even adults looking for a career change.
Over the past decade we’ve made tremendous strides in combating the notion that the formula for success in America must include a four-year college degree. While college is the right fit for many students, it is not the only option to a successful career. In fact, the trades offer the opportunity to start earning a high wage on day one without taking on any student loans or debt.
The growth potential in the trades is limitless since most of the learning and training is done on the job. Many who work in trades advance within their careers into leadership positions and many take their skills and experience and start their own business.
Today it’s clear that the “college only” approach has left far too many saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in student loans without adequate job opportunities. Put simply, many students have had to learn the hard way that their degrees might not equate to a high paying job. A sobering fact is that more than half of students finish their education with debt. Statistics show that it will take 39% of college graduates a decade to pay off their loans. While, seven out of 10 jobs in the trades require less than a four-year degree and the majority of trade professionals have an average salary above $60,000.
Skilled trades offer a pathway to a successful career. Construction companies are hiring across our state – presenting a great opportunity for anyone looking to enter a career without taking on debt. Importantly, for those interested in helping fill the skilled worker gap, you can start earning a paycheck on day one and your employer will most likely pay for training through an apprenticeship, trade school or on the job training. The training opportunities in Tennessee are endless. The Associated Builders and Contractors of Greater Tennessee operate two Construction Trades Academies in Nashville and Knoxville and the Associated General Contractors in East Tennessee operate the Construction Career Center in Chattanooga. Our state also operates 24 Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs). These are all great places to get trained for electric, carpentry, plumbing, HVAC, masonry and other trades in state-of-the-art facilities.
I encourage any student, parent of a student or those interested in a career change to head to the Go Build Tennessee career quiz – at GoBuildTennessee.com – to explore and learn about different professions and training opportunities across our state. The opportunities for training in the trades are endless. Professions like electricians, welders, road builders, home builders, carpenters, plumbers, pipe fitters, painters, ironworkers, linemen, masons, equipment operators and sheet metal workers are all in demand.
It’s never been easier to get plugged into a skilled trade career that will support you and your family throughout your life. The continued success of our state also depends on it.
Casin Swann is Director of Business Development at Pavement Restorations, Inc. and serves as the Board President of the non-profit Go Build Tennessee.