What does a ‘good job’ look like?


“College. It’s worth it.”

That slogan still holds true. But not for everyone.

There are millions of jobs — “good jobs” — in America that don’t require an expensive college degree. And companies from sea to shining sea are knocking themselves out trying to fill those positions.

Those jobs do, however, require workers to get a bit dirty, at least sometimes.

TV host, “Dirty Jobs” maven and trade school champion Mike Rowe puts it clearly:

“A couple years ago, I was dropped into a 60-foot prospect shaft about the size of a manhole, somewhere in The Australian Outback. I was profiling a jolly pair of opal miners, and getting a taste of what their work was like day in and day out. As they lowered me further and further into the narrow tube, my focus shifted from looking for opals to not losing my mind. The claustrophobia was palpable, and by the time I got to the bottom, the sky above me was just a blue dot. I yelled up to the men far above me, ‘Do you guys really love this?’ They yelled back in unison, their voices faint but clear, ‘Best job I ever had!’

“I’ve asked the same question to hundreds of people over the years: roughnecks, crab fishermen, welders, roustabouts, plumbers, lumberjacks, truck drivers, soldiers, blacksmiths, electricians — they all answered the same way. And yet, none of those vocations appear on anyone’s list of ‘Top Jobs.’ How come?

“Right now, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 3 million jobs are available for those who are willing to learn a skill that’s in demand. The vast majority of these jobs do not require a four-year degree; they require training. Fortunately, many excellent training facilities exist all over the country. And yet, none of those schools are ever included in the ‘Top 100 Colleges in America.’ Why?”

“Last year, my foundation sent dozens of people to trade schools that most parents have never heard of, to pursue skills that few guidance counselors affirmatively encourage. Many of these jobs lead to six-figure salaries, quickly. I’ve partnered with several companies that assist potential employees with vocational training. Caterpillar has a program that will train you for free to be a Dealer Technician. Categorically, I can tell you that these people love their work. Many have gone on to start their own business.”

Last week in the News Journal we ran a feature story about the return of the Construction Technologies Program at Laurel Oaks Career Campus as the construction industry makes a comeback. It stated:

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) assumes that the economy will fully recover from the recession by 2020, and that the labor force will return to full employment, or an unemployment rate between 4-5 percent. As housing recovers, construction will add 1.8 million jobs, according to the BLS.

“The Laurel Oaks program prepares skilled professionals for careers involving construction, plumbing and electricity. Students are taught how to master a wide range of hand tools and power tools, how to read blue prints and construction plans and how to work with a skilled team to produce quality products.

“On the way to becoming a top-notch construction carpenter, plumber or electrician, students can earn industry certificates that immediately improve their earning potential.

“There is still good career potential for those who ‘don’t mind getting dirty and doing some physical work,’ said Tim Boler of Tim Boler Construction in Lynchburg.”

And these jobs certainly are not only for students with just so-so grades. As a recent NPR report stated:

“Millions of good-paying jobs are opening up in the trades. And some pay better than what the average college graduate makes” without the overwhelming burden of college loans.

“The baby-boom workers are retiring and leaving lots of openings for millennials,” Anthony Carnevale says. There are 600,000 jobs for electricians in the country today, and about half of those will open up over the next decade. Carnevale says it is a big opportunity for that millennial generation born between 1980 and 2000.

“With so many boomers retiring from the trades, the U.S. is going to need a lot more pipe-fitters, nuclear power plant operators, carpenters, welders, utility workers — the list is long. But the problem is not enough young people are getting that kind of training.”

Millions of those jobs are out there. The training is out there. We adults need to ensure we get “out there” and educate, enlighten and encourage students that the jobs, and the training for them, are out there. And they’re good, essential, even enjoyable jobs.

Dirty or not.

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