Growing a Sustainable Workforce

Proactive efforts to reach members of the younger generation are needed to make them better aware of trades career opportunities

When I was in high school, there was no doubt that I’d be attending a four-year college after graduation. That was the pathway being heavily pushed.

It worked out for me. I had a good experience and earned a bachelor’s degree on time. I had some financial aid loans to pay off once I entered the working world but not an overwhelmingly ridiculous amount. For many people, though, four-year college can be a poor fit for various reasons. Yet it remains a sort of ideal, one-size-fits-all aspiration. I certainly don’t recall other options being presented to me in high school.

Even though four-year college ended up being a perfectly fine pursuit for me and I’m satisfied with my choices, since I started working at COLE Publishing, I occasionally think about an alternate version of myself. This alternate version became a plumber and drain cleaner. It never crossed my mind as a possibility during that time of life I was thinking about careers, but today having covered the industry for several years, I see the benefits and how it can be a rewarding job. I honestly think I would’ve enjoyed it had that been the route I took.

Promoting a trade like plumbing and drain cleaning to the younger generation seems to be getting better traction these days. Take, for example, the efforts of the two companies profiled in this month’s issue, Daniels Plumbing and Heating of Philadelphia and Pat the Plumber in Topeka, Kansas. Or maybe in my role as Cleaner magazine editor, I’m just particularly aware of such instances. But there are undoubtedly still plenty of graduating high schoolers out there, 100% focused on four-year college options, completely oblivious to the potential of a trades career.

Familial connections are a common way people are exposed to a trades career. Your dad or uncle is a plumber and you grow up around the industry. Eventually you join the family business. Or maybe you set off on your own or work for a different company. It’s still through family that you become aware of plumbing and drain cleaning as a career option. But that alone can’t sustain a pipeline of younger workers. Some people who grew up around the industry will of course go after different lines of work. Trades career pathways and options need better visibility to a general public.

I never had any family members involved in something like plumbing and drain cleaning while I was growing up. That probably played a role in it not being on my radar when thinking about post-high school plans. Maybe it would’ve been something I would’ve seriously considered had it been made more easily visible to me, on the same level as the four-year college options.

Are you doing anything in your local service area to help improve awareness about trades careers to the younger, incoming generation of workers? Feel free to contact me at 715-350-8442 or to tell me about it, and maybe I can share some of those ideas with other readers in a future issue.

Enjoy this month’s issue.


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