Trading Up: The Rise of the Trades in B2B

Astronaut, singer, dancer, President of the United States – the future careers children dream about inspired by popular children’s media. But as children grow, they are encouraged by adults, as well as society, that they need to focus on realistic career paths that lead to a respectable profession.

Encouraged to pursue popular career paths that lead to becoming lawyers, doctors, business leaders, and teachers, for example, students will be required to complete a minimum of 4-years of post-secondary education at a college or university.

“For many years we’ve had a great emphasis on people going to college rather than trying to emphasize that college isn’t the only answer. That there are trade schools that kids can go to, that young adults can attend to learn a trade. Trades are very necessary, and we need to start training people to do the trades,” Don Valdez, National Retail Sales Manager at Gates & Sons.


Students have Minimal Exposure to the Trades

The stigma of vocational education in the United States is very real. From a young age, many children are encouraged to attend 4-year colleges and universities upon completion of their high school diploma.

Many believe that trade schools are the last choice – that people who choose to pursue a career in the trades rather than a college education are doing so because they did poorly in school. Statistically, this simply isn’t true.

“Public opinion has shifted dramatically over the last 40 years in relationship to what used to be called trade schools a long, long time ago to transfer to vocational education and now it’s called CTE (Career Technical Education) because they not only wanted to make it more attractive but to keep up with the times,” explained Caesar Mickens Jr., Co-Host of

Ron Stefanski, Co-Host of DisruptED also noted that “one of the things we are seeing in terms of career pathways for students in the K12 system is that over the past few generations, many of the CTE programs, the traditional shop courses have been gutted in terms of their funding.”


Understanding the Trades

The lack of exposure to the trades in today’s K12 educational system often leads to a misunderstanding of what opportunities are available to students who choose to attend vocational schools. Opportunities go well beyond commonly referenced careers such as carpenters, plumbers, electricians, hairstylists, chefs, etc. In fact, there are dozens of career opportunities that include highly regarded professions in healthcare such as nursing, dental assistants, x-ray and MRI technicians, paralegals, realtors, and much more.

One of the great things for students pursuing a career in the trades is the affordability of vocational education. Often, students can start their journeys in high school programs before completing professional coursework and certifications upon graduation.

And, students can complete programs, ranging from months to a couple of years, that lead directly to entering the workforce and earning a living without the burden of massive college debt. Another benefit, many trade professions are recession and pandemic proof.

“We need to provide opportunities for students to understand the need to pursue their education but give them multiple pathways to do that,” according to Mickens Jr.


The Need for Trade Employees Continues to Grow

“We have a current workforce that has huge demands and needs. And we’ve also seen because of the pandemic, the need for an increased domestic workforce in certain areas which have been outsourced over the past 15 to 20 years,” noted Dr. Curtis Culwell, Executive Director at the Texas School Alliance.

In fact, the lack of student enrollment in trade school programs has led to a significant need for workers across multiple industries. Jackie Pasierbowicz, VP Global Sales & Marketing at TAS Energy spoke to the massive gaps of employment that will emerge over the next five to six years due to large populations of groups aging out of the workforce.

For example, “More than a quarter of home tradespeople, 27%, are within 10 years of the social security retirement age of 62” (Angi). Pasierbowiz stated that “it’s really important to educate young people… I’m talking from 5th grade all the way through high school. At a very young age, educating them about what opportunities are out there.”

Greg Crumpton, VP of Critical Environments and Facilities at Service Logic agreed noting that the HVAC industry is particularly affected, “the industry at large for years has had a shortage of skilled workers and people that were being attracted into the skilled trades.”


Shortage of Skilled Labor in The US is at a Critical Level

A 2021 Skilled Trades Report by Angi illustrates how massive the employment need is within the trades. Across the skilled trades, 68% of employers found it difficult to find employees with 33% stating it was impossible to fill roles.

This is good news for students interested in pursuing fulfilling careers that allow them to enter the workforce without racking up 100s of thousands of dollars in debt.

“There are great opportunities in the workforce. And that to be successful in the workforce today, to make a good living, to have opportunities whether you are a man or woman, wherever you’re from, you have to have a certain academic skill foundation and then, certifications and licensure ship to be able to get those jobs,” said Dr. Curtis.

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