Maybe it might be wise for some high school graduates to skip college and learn a trade like construction or retail management. This June 27, 2017 MSN.com article examines how 84 Lumber Co and several other firms belief that learning a trade may be more valuable then a college degree.
One of the nation’s largest building-supply chains, 84 Lumber Co., spends millions on ads to drive home its message that learning a trade can be more valuable than earning a college degree. The company pays manager trainees about $40,000 a year, and that’s just the beginning. Those in charge of top-grossing stores can earn $200,000, and in a few cases more than $1 million, including bonuses. Yet, astonishingly, its recruiters have had trouble finding qualified takers.
84 Lumber is in the vanguard of a corporate quest to solve a labor market conundrum: Skilled and high-paying blue-collar jobs go unfilled, while millions take on loans to pay for degrees of dubious financial value. “You can go to college and learn the theology of the Roman Empire,” says Kleis, who just completed a three-day training program at 84 Lumber’s rural Pennsylvania headquarters. “You learn all this ridiculous nonsense, and when you get out, what are you applying that to? I know how to frame a house.”
The 250-store chain and other employers are taking that message to the masses. Associated General Contractors of Colorado is spending $2 million on recruiting and apprenticeships. Carpentry Contractors Co. in Minnesota hired a comedian to star in recruiting videos that have racked up a quarter-million views on YouTube.
Of course, a college degree remains a tremendous asset in the job market. The unemployment rate among U.S. workers with a four-year degree was 2.7 percent last year, compared with 5.2 percent for those with only a high school diploma. Over a lifetime, a B.A. translates into $830,000 more in earnings, according to a Federal Reserve study.
Once upon a time, less academically inclined students attended high school vocational programs, which are now out of fashion. Today most students try college but half never complete degrees, according to Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. For those dropouts, paths into blue-collar professions have been narrowing: Manual and lower-skilled jobs fell to 39 percent of the U.S. workforce in 2014, from 63 percent in 1960, according to a new study from Third Way, a Washington think tank.