High-Paying Trade Jobs Sit Empty, While High School Grads Line Up For University

Posted on June 15, 2018 by Jorie Helms

Garret Morgan (center) is training as an ironworker near Seattle and already has a job that pays him $50,000 a year.

Sy Bean/The Hechinger Report

Like most other American high school students, Garret Morgan had it drummed into him constantly: Go to college. Get a bachelor's degree.

"All through my life it was, 'if you don't go to college you're going to end up on the streets,' " Morgan said. "Everybody's so gung-ho about going to college."

So he tried it for a while. Then he quit and started training as an ironworker, which is what he is doing on a weekday morning in a nondescript high-ceilinged building with a concrete floor in an industrial park near the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Are you heading to a program to prepare for a job? Are you going for an associates degree in your field? Maybe you're foregoing a degree entirely.

We want to hear about your choice (or your students' choices).

Email us at npred@npr.org.

Morgan and several other men and women are dressed in work boots, hard hats and Carhartt's, clipped to safety harnesses with heavy wrenches hanging from their belts. They're being timed as they wrestle 600-pound I-beams into place.

Seattle is a forest of construction cranes, and employers are clamoring for skilled ironworkers. Morgan, who is 20, is already working on a job site when he isn't at the Pacific Northwest Ironworkers shop. He gets benefits, including a pension, from employers at the job sites where he is training. And he is earning $28.36 an hour, or more than $50,000 a year, which is almost certain to steadily increase.

As for his friends from high school, "they're still in college," he said with a wry grin. "Someday maybe they'll make as much as me."

Raising alarms

While a shortage of workers is pushing wages higher in the skilled trades, the financial return from a bachelor's degree is softening, even as the price — and the average debt into which it plunges students — keeps going up.

But high school graduates have been so effectively encouraged to get a bachelor's that high-paid jobs requiring shorter and less expensive training are going unfilled. This affects those students and also poses a real threat to the economy.

"Parents want success for their kids," said Mike Clifton, who teaches machining at the Lake Washington Institute of Technology, about 20 miles from Seattle. "They get stuck on [four-year bachelor's degrees], and they're not seeing the shortage there is in tradespeople until they hire a plumber and have to write a check."

Ironworkers practice tying rebar at the Iron Workers Local Union #86 Administrative Offices in Tukwila, Wash.

Sy Bean/The Hechinger Report

In a new report, the Washington State Auditor found that good jobs in the skilled trades are going begging because students are being almost universally steered to bachelor's degrees.

Among other things, the Washington auditor recommended that career guidance — including choices that require less than four years in college — start as early as the seventh grade.

"There is an emphasis on the four-year university track" in high schools, said Chris Cortines, who co-authored the report. Yet, nationwide, three out of 10 high school grads who go to four-year public universities haven't earned degrees within six years, according to the National Student Clearinghouse. At four-year private colleges, that number is more than 1 in 5.

College Decision Day Brings Relief, Excitement And Big Worries About Money


College Decision Day Brings Relief, Excitement And Big Worries About Money

"Being more aware of other types of options may be exactly what they need," Cortines said. In spite of a perception "that college is the sole path for everybody," he said, "when you look at the types of wages that apprenticeships and other career areas pay and the fact that you do not pay four years of tuition and you're paid while you learn, these other paths really need some additional consideration."

And it's not just in Washington state.

Seventy-percent of construction companies nationwide are having trouble finding qualified workers, according to the Associated General Contractors of America; in Washington, the proportion is 80 percent.

There are already more trade jobs like carpentry, electrical, plumbing, sheet-metal work and pipe-fitting than Washingtonians to fill them, the state auditor reports. Many pay more than the state's average annual wage of $54,000.

Construction, along with health care and personal care, will account for one-third of all new jobs through 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There will also be a need for new plumbers and new electricians. And, as politicians debate a massive overhaul of the nation's roads, bridges and airports, the U.S. Department of Education reports that there will be 68 percent more job openings in infrastructure-related fields in the next five years than there are people training to fill them.

"The economy is definitely pushing this issue to the forefront," said Amy Morrison Goings, president of the Lake Washington Institute of Technology, which educates students in these fields. "There isn't a day that goes by that a business doesn't contact the college and ask the faculty who's ready to go to work."

In all, some 30 million jobs in the United States that pay an average of $55,000 per year don't require bachelor's degrees, according to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce.

Yet the march to bachelor's degrees continues. And while people who get them are more likely to be employed and make more money than those who don't, that premium appears to be softening; their median earnings were lower in 2015, when adjusted for inflation, than in 2010.

"There's that perception of the bachelor's degree being the American dream, the best bang for your buck," said Kate Blosveren Kreamer, deputy executive director of Advance CTE, an association of state officials who work in career and technical education. "The challenge is that in many cases it's become the fallback. People are going to college without a plan, without a career in mind, because the mindset in high school is just, 'Go to college.' "

Matthew Dickinson, 21, asks a classmate for help as they rebuild an automatic transmission in an auto repair technician program classes at the Lake Washington Institute of Technology.

Sy Bean/The Hechinger Report

It's not that finding a job in the trades, or even manufacturing, means needing no education after high school. Most regulators and employers require certificates, certifications or associate degrees. But those cost less and take less time than earning a bachelor's degree. Tuition and fees for in-state students to attend a community or technical college in Washington State, for example, come to less than half the cost of a four-year public university, the state auditor points out, and less than a tenth of the price of attending a private four-year college.

People with career and technical educations are also more likely to be employed than their counterparts with academic credentials, the U.S. Department of Education reports, and significantly more likely to be working in their fields of study.

Young people don't seem to be getting that message. The proportion of high school students who earned three or more credits in occupational education — typically an indication that they're interested in careers in the skilled trades — has fallen from 1 in 4 in 1990 to 1 in 5 now, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Washington is not the only state devoting attention to this. California is spending $200 million to improve the delivery of career and technical education. Iowa community colleges and businesses are collaborating to increase the number of "work-related learning opportunities," including apprenticeships, job shadowing and internships. Tennessee has made its technical colleges free.

Who's Missing From America's Colleges? Rural High School Graduates


Who's Missing From America's Colleges? Rural High School Graduates

So severe are looming shortages of workers in the skilled trades in Michigan that Gov. Rick Snyder in February announced a $100 million proposal he likens to the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after World War II.

At the federal level, there is bipartisan support for making Pell grants available for short-term job-training courses and not just university tuition. The Trump administration supports the idea.

For all the promises to improve vocational education, however, a principal federal source of money for it, called Tech-Prep, hasn't been funded since 2011. A quarter of states last year reduced their own funding for postsecondary career and technical education, according to the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education.

The branding issue

Money isn't the only issue, advocates for career and technical education say. An even bigger challenge is convincing parents that it leads to good jobs.

Darren Redford, 20, looks to his instructor after completing a connector mockup drill at the Iron Workers Local Union #86 Administrative Offices in Tukwila, Wash.

Sy Bean/The Hechinger Report

"They remember 'voc-ed' from when they were in high school, which is not necessarily what they aspire to for their own kids," Kreamer said.

The parents "are definitely harder to convince because there is that stigma of the six-pack-totin' ironworker," said Greg Christiansen, who runs the ironworkers training program. Added Kairie Pierce, apprenticeship and college director for the Washington State Labor Council of the AFL-CIO: "It sort of has this connotation of being a dirty job. 'It's hard work — I want something better for my son or daughter.' "

Of the $200 million that California is spending on vocational education, $6 million is going into a campaign to improve the way people regard it. The Lake Washington Institute of Technology changed its name from Lake Washington Technical College, said Goings, its president, to avoid being stereotyped as a vocational school.

These perceptions fuel the worry that, if students are urged as early as the seventh grade to consider the trades, then low-income, first-generation and ethnic and racial minority high school students will be channeled into blue-collar jobs while wealthier and white classmates are pushed by their parents to get bachelor's degrees.

"When CTE was vocational education, part of the reason we had a real disinvestment from the system was because we were tracking low-income and minority kids into these pathways," Kreamer said. "There is this tension between, do you want to focus on the people who would get the most benefit from these programs, and — is that tracking?"

Amy Morrison Goings, president of the Lake Washington Institute of Technology, says, "There isn't a day that goes by that a business doesn't contact the college and ask the faculty who's ready to go to work."

Sy Bean/The Hechinger Report

In a quest for prestige and rankings, and to bolster real-estate values, high schools also like to emphasize the number of their graduates who go on to four-year colleges and universities.

Jessica Bruce followed that path, enrolling in community college after high school for one main reason: because she was recruited to play fast-pitch softball. "I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life," she said.

Now, she's an apprentice ironworker, making $32.42 an hour, or more than $60,000 a year, while continuing her training. At 5-foot-2, "I can run with the big boys," she said, laughing.

As for whether anyone looks down on her for not having a bachelor's degree, Bruce doesn't particularly care.

"The misconception," she said, "is that we don't make as much money."

And then she laughed again.

Taylor Fawcett, 23, moves a column during a connector mockup drill at the Iron Workers Local Union #86 Administrative Offices in Tukwila, Wash.

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Staying Small Yields Big Results for Tulsa Remodeler

Posted on May 30, 2018 by Jorie Helms

remodeler of the month

Ken Saltink is the NAHB Remodeler of the Month for May.

Long before he chose a career path, Ken Saltink, CGR, CAPS, owner of All American Remodel in Tulsa, Okla, started woodworking as merely a hobby to save some money on furniture. “I saw an entertainment center for sale and I thought to myself, I could build that,” Saltink recalls.

So he purchased an old Craftsman table saw and got to work. He also began building other small items, and before he knew it, he was hooked.

That hobby developed into a true passion for building, which propelled him into what has become a successful remodeling career — for which, Saltink has earned the honor of becoming May’s NAHB Remodeler of the Month.

Saltink says keeping his company small has yielded positive results over the years. It’s given him the ability to keep his expenses low, and it’s allowed him the freedom to choose which jobs he wants to take — ensuring both the project and client are a good fit.

And being on the jobsite as much as possible throughout the project enables him to respond promptly to any questions the home owners might have. That strategy has helped reinforce quality customer service and create a continual stream of word-of-mouth referrals.

He also says being a part of the HBA of Greater Tulsa Remodelers Council has helped his business grow, too. However, he admits that before joining the council more than 30 years ago, he was skeptical about the value of membership.

“I reluctantly joined the HBA after several years of getting hounded by some of my business associates. My excuse was that I did not need any more work,” Saltink said. “[But] after joining, I came to realize … how invaluable it is to network with like-minded remodelers. I no longer look at them as competitors but as comrades thrown into the same boat as myself. When any of us have a problem, we openly share our experiences on how to deal with situations.”

Read the full Q&A in Qualified Remodeler magazine for more details on how Saltink keeps his company size small to pick the jobs he wants.

Know a professional remodeler who takes remodeling to the next level? Nominate him or her for NAHB Remodeler of the Month.

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Posted on May 30, 2018 by Jorie Helms

Don't get caught short underestimating the still evolving wave of demand for single-family homes and communities.


Can two statements that contradict each other both be true?

When it comes to Millennials, evidently paradox may be the rule, not the exception.

For instance, age is just a number.

And, demographics is destiny.

So, if age is just a number, which would help explain how 35 might in fact be the new 25, then how can the other statement--that demographics is destiny--also be valid? Age, after all, is a building block of demographics, the science of people patterns.

Remember, demographics technically refers to people and household patterns, and demographically-defined generational cohorts have to do with birth-rate cycles, which tend to encompass subsets of people who share values, attitudes, preferences, and behaviors we generally refer to as psychographics for segmentation purposes.

At any rate, conventional wisdom has suggested that Millennials--a generational cohort most demographers would agree includes today's 21- to 37-year-old adults--have been one of housing's bigger unfurling mysteries of the past hundred years or so.

That's because a perfect storm of a profound, life-altering Great Recession, heaps of college-related student debt, social norms around family formation, marriage and children, technology, and workplace transformation have been playing out simultaneously as this cohort has exited post-secondary studies, entered the workforce, and begun to behave as functioning adults in society.

Seldom--in the times since "housing cycles" have come to be a thing--have such materially important variables with such significant potential impact on housing type preferences, means, aspirations, and intentions been up for grabs.

What's interesting is that much of the focus on the latency of Millennial adults in lifestages having to do with pairing up, forming households, forming families, and creating two-parent households with children--the principle demographic engine of any economy--has been on the financial after-effects of the last decade's downturn and slow recovery. A post-traumatic, deeply indebted, urban-centric Renter Nation seemed to be on the verge of changing how housing, communities, and neighborhoods would work in America.

Not so much.

Age was just a number. And, demographics was destiny. As Millennials crossed the 35-year-old threshold, they've seemed to double-down on more historically common housing preference choices and preferences.

And the funny thing is, it's not all about finances, career trajectories, and economics in the wake of the Recession's destructive effects. Here's a piece from New York Times contributor Roni Caryn Rabin that explores how many Millennials have chosen to wait to form couples and create families with almost entirely different motivations.

Sociologists, psychologists and other experts who study relationships say that this practical no-nonsense attitude toward marriage has become more the norm as women have piled into the work force in recent decades. During that time, the median age of marriage has risen to 29.5 for men and 27.4 for women in 2017, up from 23 for men and 20.8 for women in 1970.

Both men and women now tend to want to advance their careers before settling down. Many are carrying student debt and worry about the high cost of housing.

They often say they would like to be married before starting a family, but some express ambivalence about having children. Most important, experts say, they want a strong foundation for marriage so they can get it right — and avoid divorce.

“People are not postponing marriage because they care about marriage less, but because they care about marriage more,” said Benjamin Karney, a professor of social psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Now, this central insight on shared values--values about the marriage and family relationship--can be an important engagement point for residential builders and developers who seek attributive moments and points of traction with potential home buying customers.

What's more, the demographics going forward are one exceptionally robust prospect for community and home developers who're able to crack the code of price, product, location, and customer care.

The Zelman & Associates team of analysts' latest The Z Report takes a careful look at the data dashboard on the vanguard group of Millennials, those who've crossed the 35-year-old threshold and are now in the 35-to-44 year-old age segment for housing type. The conclusion the Zelman report reaches--which you can sample for free by clicking on this link--is nothing short of astonishing:

"Over the last five years, 69% [of 35-44 year olds] have chosen single-family living versus just 25% for multi-family. Thus, a 35-44 year old is 2.7 times more likely to skew towards the single-family lifestyle. With outsized growth forecasted for this age cohort at the expense of weakening trends for younger peers, to us, it is clear that demand for single-family housing should outpace multi-family, even after considering any secular trends related to young adults forming families later in life. We do not believe that this is appreciated by the vast majority of housing market analysts and investors."

Are you ready for the wait-and-hurry-up generation?

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Free Webinar: Turn Website Visitors into Satisfied Customers

Posted on May 29, 2018 by Jorie Helms

Statistics show that only 2% of your website visitors complete the online contact form. NAHB Remodelers would like to help you build amazing content to successfully convert visitors to leads.

Led by speaker Bobby Tsui of Inbound Mill Inc., the webinar From Content to Conversion: Building a Killer Websiteset for 1-2 p.m. on Wednesday, May 30, will help participants:

  • Identify the latest tools and technologies to help you develop a dynamic website
  • Review the types of content that make your website more appealing to customers
  • Describe how to convert website visitors into viable business leads

Participants can earn one hour of continuing education credits for these 12 NAHB designations: CAPS, CGA, CGB, CGP, CGR, CMP, CSP, GMB, GMR, Master CGP, Master CSP and MIRM.

Registration is open until 3 p.m. ET (12 p.m. PT) May 29. For registration questions, contact Sheila Coble at 800-368-5242 x8057.

This free webinar is brought to you from NAHB Remodelers because May is National Home Remodeling Month and the month’s sponsors: AmerifirstBuildDirect and Paslode.

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National Home Remodeling Month Made Easy

Posted on May 9, 2018 by Jorie Helms

Home owners spent more than $152 billion in remodeling projects in 2017. And this year is projected to be even busier for the remodeling industry, which typically kicks into high gear each year as the warmer weather of spring sets in.

That’s why May is the best time to celebrate National Home Remodeling Month — an opportunity for remodelers and home builders across the country to promote their businesses and raise consumer awareness of the benefits of hiring a professional remodeler to get the job done.

For members of NAHB Remodelers, building a strategy couldn’t be easier: They have access to a step-by-step guide for National Home Remodeling Month and tips to maximize promotion efforts, as well as an online toolkit filled with free resources, including:

  • Social media graphics and sample posts
  • A consumer brochure on finding the right professional remodeler
  • An infographic highlighting aging-in-place statistics
  • An article about the benefits of green remodeling
  • Lists of top remodeling projects

Additionally, NAHB Remodelers is hosting five free professional development webcasts in the month of May exclusively for NAHB Remodeler members. The webcasts will be held May 1, 8, 15, 22 and 30, and each will begin at 1 p.m. ET.

National Home Remodeling Month is sponsored by AmerifirstBuildDirect and Paslode.

For questions about these members-only resources, contact remodel@nahb.org. You can also join the NAHB Remodelers Facebook and LinkedIn groups for continued discussion and to share ideas. Or to learn about joining NAHB Remodelers, visit nahb.org/whynahbr.



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Acme Brick celebrates 127 years!

Posted on April 19, 2018 by Jorie Helms

Fort Worth, Texas - Acme Brick Company is celebrating the company’s 127th year in business on April 17th by presenting each employee with two pair of cotton/spandex socks. One pair bears an image of Acme’s Brick Boy mascot who makes appearances at various events.  The second pair features the famous Acme red logo.  “Sometimes you need to build top of mind awareness for your company from the bottom up”, quipped Acme’s Director of Marketing, Britt Stokes.

     Acme was founded on April 17, 1891, just 26 years after the end of the civil war and the same year that James Naismith invented the game of basketball.  Also in 1891 Benjamin Harrison was President of the U.S. and Thomas Edison patented the “transmission of signals electrically” otherwise known as radio!

     Acme had its humble beginnings on the banks of Rock Creek, near the town of Millsap, about 30 miles west of Fort Worth, Texas.  

The company has grown to become the largest U.S. brick company in the world. Acme residential and commercial masonry products are available throughout the U.S., and southern Canada. The company 


has produced brick for well over two million homes during its history and many thousands of commercial, civic and educational buildings. Acme Brick Company has consistently ranked at the top in opinion surveys of the nation’s largest homebuilders concerning product quality and product awareness and is the only brick manufacturer that stamps its logo into residential brick products.  All

 residential brick products are supported by Acme’s Homebuyer’s 100 Year Limited Guarantee.

     Acme now offers many other home-related products: Iron Doors, fire pits and fireplaces, quality grills, outdoor kitchens, traditional fireplaces, natural and man-made stone, wood floors and tile.

Acme Brick company is the nation’s largest brickmaker. The company owns 17 brick plants and has 69 company-owned sales offices across 14 states, plus a nationwide network of independent distributors. Acme has been a wholly-owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. since 2000.  For more information visit www.brick.com.



For more PRESS information contact: Ron Taylor/Ashley & Taylor Public Relations (817) 874-8206 or taylorpr@spindle.net.

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