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Ideas On How to Steer Teens Toward Trades, Part 2

By Peter Kray posted 12-17-2019 19:04


In a recent interview, famed ‘Dirty Jobs’ host Mike Rowe said a lack of shop classes is one of the leading reasons why the U.S. has $1.6 trillion of student debt.

It’s the same issue Ken Lambert, current CSI Chapter President in New Hampshire, addressed in his latest blog about why the construction industry “Needs to Steer Teens Toward Trades,” and which several CSI members discussed in this news post.

Here, more CSI members share their thoughts on the most effective ways to encourage people to consider a career in the construction industry. 

By far, the biggest promoter of college over the past 40+ years have been parents, many of whom worked in the trades and who wanted "better" for their own children (because working in the trades, while rewarding, is difficult and dangerous work, and retirement can be fraught with injury and pain, if reached at all).

Schools didn't make these changes because the educators wanted to for arbitrary reasons. They were asked to by our entire society, which has been collectively pushing for higher and higher college acceptance rates as one of the major success indicators in public schools.

Putting wood and metal shop back into high schools is counterproductive and unnecessary at this point. That training was not meant to make skilled laborers, but rather to train students to care for their homes. Home ownership is not a realistic goal for most of the young people in this country (who now live mostly in cities), and this rudimentary training, while valuable, should really be elective in nature in a modern societies education system.

Career training should be done in specialized Vocational schools (now called Career Centers), and they don't look like they used to either. Machinists used to run drill presses and lathes. Now

they run CNC milling machines. Auto mechanics used to just turn wrenches. Increasingly, they are using computers to look up instructions, make repairs, and cars themselves are more electronics than combustion at this point. Many trades need an education that looks more like computer programming than carpentry. Did you know that technical manuals for CNC milling machines are some of the most difficult reading there is on the planet? This problem is nothing new. There has been a shortage of trades workers for over 50 years.  Do you ever remember a time when plumbers and electricians were cheap and available on short notice?
Cam Featherstonhaugh CSI, CDT, AIA 


I don’t know why anyone would want to "steer" teens in any direction at all. You put the information out there for them to analyze, and let them make up their minds about what they want to do based on their predispositions and interests. If they show you that they have a desire to learn more about a thing, and you like to teach - you offer more information. We don't need to sell it, we just need to know how to present it when we are compelled to explain it.
Jeffrey Pilus CSI, CCCA, AIA Ass., USGBC, SCIP


I like the train of thought that Jeffrey Pilus has, but I have always wondered why we didn’t give 9th graders career/personality tests.  t would help them not only be aware of what they are naturally bent towards, but also lists careers that they may be unfamiliar with, such as opportunities in the AEC industry. I certainly don’t want to see society become like the film "Divergent." However, I remember taking a career assessment evaluation, way too late in life, and it designated that I should be a marine biologist. I never even considered what a marine biologist career looked like when I was in high school.

Also, I think the AEC industry is overlooking the right-brained “artsy” people.  AEC is not only appealing to techie engineers, it should most definitely be appealing to the ingenuitive designers that can take engineering problems and create beautiful art forms as a result. Do high schools still teach art, even if it is not industrial art? I would think that introducing architecture would give purpose to the art classes beyond useful aesthetics, and encourages creative thinking that requires an understanding of science also. The tiny house and micro trailer industry is booming. Wouldn't it be great if we could give kids contest projects of designing a tiny house or trailer, instead of a doghouse?
Amy Haynes CSI, CDT


One of the ways I found highly effective to steer teens especially high school students into the Trades was to get involve/maintain my company's involvement with the ACE Program of America. ACE stands for Architecture, Engineering and Construction. My involvement with this established and most influential program started out with my employment at HOK in New York. Currently, I am trying to establish a team at my current job opportunity in Atlanta. See link

Christopher Lodge, NCARB, Assoc. AIA, CSI-EP, LEED AP BD+C, WELL AP

1 comment



The biggest problem on this is that kids in High School are never exposed to the idea that college is not the only career path.  I know several HS teachers and they disagree with that precept, they are trained to preach college and down play other career paths.  Sad commentary on our secondary school system.  The trade route has made me a living equal to the average professional career other than the lucrative ones like lawyers.  Plenty of college graduates flipping burgers but trade people are in demand and a drastic shortage has developed do to not steering HS grads that direction.  What happened to aptitude tests?  Only the military still does that to determine potential career paths.  Ron