You hear it all the time: the struggles facing young people with arts and humanities degrees. The stereotypes fly fast and furious. These kids go to university, spend four years of time and money sitting in lecture halls, then end up as a barista at your local coffee shop. They just don’t learn the skills they need in this economy, or more importantly, the economy that’s coming – the economy not of 2021, but 2027, 2037, and on and on.
It’s a crazy cycle of self-destruction. Yet there are fields available to Canadian students with enormous opportunities for employability – and right at the top of the list are skilled trades! The OECD published a report which found that skilled trades professions were some of the least popular among developed nations, despite graduates from those programs enjoying some of the highest employment rates on average.
Take another example. Back in 2015, Workopolis published a list of some of Canada’s highest-paying career paths. Unsurprisingly, the titles read like a list of programs at your local technical college. Skilled trades are the name of the game, with careers like equipment operators, welders, electricians, mechanics, service technicians, and others at the top of the heap.
The balance sheet is clear. On the one hand, we have a glut of students with arts and humanities degrees struggling to find their place in the modern economy. On the other hand, we have young skilled tradespeople with the knowledge and know-how to prosper. So, why are we encouraging a culture of baristas instead of a culture of bricklayers? Careers as parental basement dwellers instead of careers as plumbers? People with little chance of contributing, instead of a chance to be the people who are building our country and economy?
It’s time to get our priorities straight. For the sake of our kids, we’ve got to change the channel. We’ve got to start communicating a new message for young people – pick a career with a future you can depend on. Pick skilled trades.