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Study: Nearly half of young adults interested in pursuing trades careers

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A newly released study indicates that 47% of young adults are interested in pursuing a skilled trade as a career.

And despite a dwindling skilled trade labor force, 83% of U.S. adults ages 18 to 30 believe learning a skilled trade can be more valuable than a college education, the Thumbtack survey found.

The study hints that the skilled trades do not have a perception problem, Thumbtack said.

It added that career choices are instead influenced by a “pathway problem as societal pressure, parental pressure and a lack of access to trade education continues to push young adults to higher education.”

It found that among respondents:

    • 59% “report having felt pressure” to attend college or university;
    • 82% “believe kids and teens are often incorrectly told that college is the only way to become successful in life;”
    • 48% percent didn’t have a chance to participate in a trade high school; and
    • 32% weren’t given the option to take a shop class in high school.

Both young adults and college graduates agreed that high schools should make more of an effort to educate students on the opportunities within skilled trades.

As it relates to the collision repair industry, stakeholders are working to correct misconceptions about working within the space.

The issue was highlighted during a Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) OEM Collision Repair Technology Summit session held last November as part of the SEMA Show.

Panelists discussed the need for everyone to work together to change the perception of the automotive and collision repair technician roles from grease monkeys to high-tech, highly skilled, and trained professionals.

“We really have to approach both recruiting and retention. You can’t just do one. It’s a bit of both,” said Carlisle and Co.’s Chad Walker during the panel. “These guys are this side of engineers. It’s [a] very sophisticated product. These things are really difficult to work on. They need a really highly skilled problem solver to work on these things. That’s not what the public believes. That’s not what parents believe when their kids are juniors in high school and that’s a problem for us.”

More recently, I-CAR launched a new marketing campaign to generate interest and attract new talent into the collision repair space.

TechForce data indicates that 642,000 auto technicians will be needed through 2024, with 80,000 of those people needed within the collision repair space.

In response to its study, Thumbtack noted that it’s also working to improve access to education and resources within the skilled trades.

“There’s never been a better time to enter the trades, and as a generation shaped by the pandemic and gig economy, Gen Z are uniquely suited to a profession that offers flexibility and independence,” said Marco Zappacosta, Thumbtack’s CEO. “With a lower barrier to entry than in the past and incredible demand for people to fill these roles, expertise in the trades is a future-proof career.”

Thumbtack’s study found that 73% of young adults have “incredible respect” for the skilled grades, with medicine being the only career that generated a higher degree of respect among that demographic.

Survey respondents listed a number of benefits to pursuing a skilled trade career including a flexible schedule, faster and more affordable educational path, a quicker entry into the workforce, and the opportunity to be their own boss.

Career longevity also factored in, with 74% of respondents believing skilled trades won’t be replaced by artificial intelligence (AI).

Among adults already working in the skilled trades, 94% said they would encourage their own children or families to pursue a skilled trade career. They also saw opportunities for career growth, ongoing training, and increased future earnings.

To help improve access to resources, Thumbtack is piloting its Tools of the Trade Mentorship Sessions as a way to connect incoming workers with local trade business owners.

Its trades experts will also offer free virtual mentoring sessions for those interested in starting their own business.

“Starting your own business can be intimidating, particularly for women in the trades who are entering a traditionally male-dominated field,” said Brittney Workman, founder of female-owned plumbing company Trade Pros and Thumbtack pro advisor. “My hope as a small business owner is to provide more readily available support for the next generation, encouraging them to leave their comfort zone and explore different career paths.”



Graphics courtesy of Thumbtack

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