New survey reveals negative perception, lack of awareness of trade schools and careers

Most young people would rather work as a barista than a welder

Young Americans would rather work in a coffee shop than in a high-paying trade, according to a new national survey that reveals an alarming stigma around trade schools and careers. The survey, commissioned by Metal Supermarkets, also highlights a common belief that attending traditional college is the best path to a successful career, and many young people do not give serious consideration to enrolling in trade school as a path to landing a stable, well-paying job.

The national poll of more than 500 men and women, ages 18-24, reveals:

More than half (56%) say they’re not – or never were- interested in going to trade school. Why no interest? – Two out of every three (66%) said they did not know enough about trade schools.

More than half (62%) said they didn’t learn about trade school options in high school, and more than two thirds (68%) said trade schools were never discussed by their guidance counselor.

More than half (58%) admitted they do not know about the trade schools in their community.

What would they choose if it comes down to making macchiatos or metal?  Shockingly, half said they’d rather work in a coffee shop as a barista than as a welder – even though top-paying welder jobs can pay well more than $100,000 a year.

“Despite skyrocketing student loan debt and the growing global demand for skilled trade positions with great job security, most young people still believe attending traditional college is the only route to a successful future, “says Stephen Schober, President and CEO of Metal Supermarkets, the world’s largest supplier of small-quantity metals. “What they don’t seem to know is that attending a trade school is a great option for students who want to learn a craft, enter the workforce earlier than others and carry less student debt.  It is also a path to a great career and a potentially high-paying career.  Metal Supermarkets stores nationwide work with skilled tradespeople each day and know the value that comes from those careers.”

Unfortunately, that value is not well known amongst America’s youth, contributing to the growing lack of skilled trade workers entering the workforce.

Trade School Stigma & Stereotypes

Nearly 3 out of 4 polled (73%) said traditional college gives you a better future than trade school.

A quarter of those surveyed (25%) felt students who attended trade schools were not as smart as those who went to traditional college and believe people attending trade schools were not as motivated as four-year college grads.

More than half of the respondents (55%) believe people with office jobs earn more respect than those who work with their hands.

The lack of knowledge about trade schools and careers run counter to the current employment climate.

According to an AfterCollege student report, only 28% of college seniors had a job lined up in the spring of 2018. Conversely, there is a critical need for skilled workers, with much of the nation’s aging infrastructure requiring skilled workers to rebuild bridges, highways and buildings. Despite this demand, the American Welding Society predicts a shortage of more than 450,000 skilled welding professionals by 2022.

Student Loan Hero reports 69% of students from the Class of 2018 took out student loans, graduating with an average debt balance of $29,800. Nearly two thirds (65%) of the recent survey respondents believed that student debt was the price you pay for a college education. However, trade school graduates face far less student debt and enter the workforce sooner after completing their degree within two years.  According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the average trade school degree costs $33,000, compared to a $127,000 bachelor’s degree.

The U.S. Department of Education reports people with trade and technical educations are actually slightly more likely to be employed than their counterparts with academic credentials and they’re significantly more likely to be working in their fields of study.

Though the majority of those surveyed wouldn’t consider trade school, they are starting to recognize the need for skilled workers and the opportunity.

Nearly 8 out of 10 respondents (80%) said you can get a high-paying job if you went to trade school.

Two out of every three people (66%) said you don’t need to go to traditional college to get a high-paying job.

“We need to build awareness about the amazing opportunities that exist in the trades. We need to fill the growing shortage of skilled workers in the U.S. and let students know that they do not have to drown in student loan debt by attending a traditional college. We hope to see more students considering trade schools and the rewarding careers that come with it,” said Schober.

– Metal Supermarkets