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December 15, 2023

Tennessee encouraging trade careers as country experiences shortage

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This article originally appeared on WKRN.com.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Austin Inglis nearly graduated with a four-year degree in aerospace engineering before a radical career change to sales and then finding his way to Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC) of Greater Tennessee.

“I do love working with my hands, I don’t like sitting still,” Inglis said. “That was part of the thing I hated about my other jobs, just sitting still all day.”

At the ABC academies in Nashville and Knoxville, they can learn just about any skilled trade that’s out there.

“They got HVAC, carpentry, plumbing, electrical,” electrical instructor Shawn Smith said. “Soon, they’ll be expanding to construction management and into masonry.”

Demand for vocational workers is growing every year both outside and inside Tennessee, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. The state estimates that as much as 65% of trade workers will leave the industry in the coming years to retirement.

“We know there’s a demand for their work, and I think there has to be variations where you get to choose your path,” Department of Labor & Workforce Development Commissioner Deniece Thomas said. “If that’s not the traditional classroom, then why not trades?”

Former Gov. Bill Haslam (R-Tennessee) launched a program called Go Build Tennessee back in 2016 to help the industry take off a bit in the Volunteer State.

It’s a nonprofit to try to bring more awareness to the trade industry. On its website, there’s information about skilled trade demand, salary, and education.

“A lot of our kids didn’t really know the opportunities that existed in the skilled trades,” Thomas said. “So, Go Build plays a vital role in helping to make sure that there is awareness.”

Trades aren’t for everyone – the same way a four-year university isn’t for everyone either. But with high demand comes higher reward.

“They have pretty good incomes!” Thomas said.

It’s an industry that’s worked out quite well for Inglis. When asked if he had any regrets about his former stops, he was pretty blunt.

“Not at all, seriously no,” Inglis said with a laugh. “No, there’s nothing I miss about it.”

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