Thursday, January 19, 2017

Why Young People Don’t Want Factory Work

The idea that blue collar jobs aren't a pathway to the middle class and higher is antiquated and wrong. Factory work today is often highly sophisticated and knowledge-based with workers using equipment and tools their ancestors never had.

After honing their skills in the factory, carpenters, electricians and technicians can earn upwards of $50,000 a year--which in most years still places a household with two such income earners in the top 25 percent for income. It's true these aren't glitzy or cushy jobs, but they do pay a good salary.

So why aren't young workers filling these available modular home factory jobs--or getting the skills necessary to fill them. Here are 4 reasons that may account for a lot of Millennial’s reluctance to seek factory work:

First, government discourages work. Welfare consists of dozens of different and overlapping federal and state income support programs. A recent Census Bureau study found more than 100 million Americans collecting a government check or benefit each month. The spike in families on food stamps, SSI, disability, public housing, and early Social Security remains very high even 9 years into the housing recovery. This should come as no surprise given the combination of the scaled back welfare work requirements and the steep phase-out of benefits as a recipient begins earning income.


Second, our public school systems often fail to teach kids basic skills. Whatever happened to shop classes? We ‎have schools that now concentrate more on ethnic studies and tolerance training than teaching kids how to use a lathe or a graphic design tool. Universities are even more negligent. Kids commonly graduate from four year colleges with $100,000 of debt and little vocational training. A liberal arts education is valuable, but it should come paired with some practical skills.


Third, negative attitudes toward "blue collar" work. Many parents say they are disappointed if their kids want to become a craftsman--instead of going to college. This attitude discourages kids from learning how to make things, which contributes to sector-specific worker shortages. Meanwhile, too many people want to go into the talking professions: lawyers, media, clergy, professors, and so on. Those who can't “do,” become attorneys and sociology professors.

Fourth, higher education has become an excuse to delay entry into the workforce. I always cringe when I talk to 22 year olds who will graduate from college and who tell me their next step is to go to graduate school. Maybe by time they are 26 or 27 they will start working.


Chuck Owings said...

This one hits home. I do a few classes at a nearby tech school. These are high school aged kids that want to learn a trade. Kids that are not afraid to work with their hand. Having been in the trades all my life, I understand and applaud these students. I tell them so as well and encourage their efforts and direction.
Unfortunately, society in general has cast some sort of second class status to the notion of pursuing a blue collar career. This really needs to change and I hope this new direction in American industry will help to change that.

fletchergj said...

I have 7 kids all ranging from 17 to 35 I have two kids that are in the building trades and they have seen the economy fall and with that fall they have also seen there jobs fail. So I would love to see the industry stay strong and promising so this would not happen. My other children are in professional roles that seem to never fail.