Join Bridget Quinn for an in-depth discussion in this video Skilled trades: Education and technology, part of Skilled Trades: Construction Apprenticeship Foundations.
- So how did arrive at this predicament of an unprepared workforce? - We're facing a national skilled worker shortage right now, none of something we've ever seen before, and something that's played a big role in that is over the years, there's been a big push to make sure every student that is in high school goes to four year college. And so unfortunately, because of the requirements for college, sometimes electives like wood shop and metal shop and things like that have gotten pulled out of area high schools and been replaced for example with foreign language. Along with a lot of other industries out there, we have an aging workforce right now. As a matter of fact, of the 6,000 members that we have here in Oregon and southwest Washington, close to half of them are 50 years or older. - Our nation faces a major student loan debt crisis, as students feel obligated to go off to college while at the same time, skilled trades go unfilled and paid apprenticeships are not given the recognition that they deserve. When in the 1970s, high schools started putting industrial arts classes on the chopping block. With the goal that every high school graduate would go on to pursue a four year degree. - A wave of you know career and technical ed and then down, where I taught we maintained it, although because of budget cutbacks, where would they cut? They didn't cut the english teachers 'cause they were a graduation requirement, they would cut the shop classes. - Yeah so a generation ago it was either, something to fill the time, or it was a trade you were going into because you couldn't do college. Right now if you go to a CTE class you're going to see things that parallel the same things you would on college. So we're teaching engineering skills, we're teaching design skills, we're teaching a lot of math in the worker review, so the next generation of CTE doesn't look like anything our parents or grandparents did. - This lack of CTE classes or career technical education is an important factor because they provide an opportunity for students to discover the satisfaction of planning a project and then building it to completion. - When I was in the seventh grade, I went to a parochial grade school, and that year they started a program where a few select students could go over to the local public school, and take a shop class. So I was one of the ones chosen, I built that first year in the seventh grade, I hand built a 40 inch sailboat. You know, and then that grew into owning a 42 foot sailboat so it worked out pretty good. - They also provide students with the ability to develop the necessary skills to become a competitive applicant for apprenticeship. - You go to college if you want to be successful, I grew up on that, my parents sent me to college my wife and I were going to send our kids to college, and we got to this point now where we don't have people in the trades. - These classes are not like the shop classes of yesterday, they often work hand in hand with local industries, and incorporate modern tools and the latest technology. - In the sheet metal industry, there's an opportunity for those who enjoy the three dimensional visualization of pattern development, not only hand drafting. But predominately now using CAD, or Computer Aided Drafting in our industry, technology has changed and evolved over the years. As well as, so has sheet metal using these different tools in order to create. - The technology is really what's kind of boosted the big waves of this economy truthfully, and how it changes the plumbing industry on, is that we can actually design a building from full on computer, we have 3D models. We can physically have walking through, we can see what it looks like, before it's ever built. We can see if we're running into electricians somewhere, fire sprinkler guy, HVAC, everything can now be seen via computer, right? - I think there's a lot of stigma about manufacturing and the trades being somebody standing on an assembly line pounding out something with a hammer and you know completely low skilled. People don't realize what we're doing in manufacturing, we're doing the trades today. We're using high tech machines, we have CNC machines everything's done on CAD there's math and design in everything we do. Going back you know if you're successful, you got to go to college, trades are for people who didn't make it in college or couldn't make it through school and that's totally untrue these days. - [Hostess] So I think that lately, we're seeing a lot more industries that are realizing wow, we don't have a workforce and what are we going to do about it? Because they're obviously not getting trained in high schools and so a lot of these industries are going to the local high schools, and partnering with them and offering to help build a CTE program study. Maybe donate machinery and equipment materials, oftentimes instruction as far as building a project. - When I started in the early 90s, it was, we were a little more positively received and it's that shift that happened. All across America where you had to go to college. If you don't go to college you're going to be digging a ditch and there was no say about how much money you were going to make, digging a ditch or what your benefits were going to be about digging a ditch, or furthermore, how happy are you going to be digging a ditch alright, no. - [Hostess] This hiccup in trades education has done a real disservice to our youth, but thankfully things are turning around. - So we are seeing a shift in attitudes on CTE measure 98 was huge in Oregon because that provides a huge amount of funding for CTE programs. That's allowed us to buy modern equipment, a lot of schools are opening their shops, and their CTE programs back up with that money. - [Hostess] Recognizing the workforce deficit many states have increased funding and put CTE programs of study back into schools. - We've got federal grant money, that's allowing schools to open programs back up. Update shops, modernize shops, we're going from table saws and joiners to CNC machines and laser engravers. - What's great is that CTE has been proven to keep kids in school, improve their grades and give them soft skills like problem solving and teamwork, and they can lead to apprenticeships that often offer college credit with little or no debt and offer the ability to enter the workforce immediately. CTE students discover the appeal, of fulfilling, tangible work, that a career in the trades can provide.