generation z welder

Could Generation Z Help Solve the Skilled Trades Shortage?

generation z welder

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Today, Baby Boomers make up a large proportion of our nation’s skilled trades workers, and they’re either retiring or plan to soon.

This wouldn’t be a problem if enough younger workers replaced them, but that hasn’t been the case.

Workers aged 25 to 44 years old have largely opted to pursue other career paths, which may be one reason why Millennials (ages 23-38) have racked up so much college debt that they have to wait longer to buy homes.[1][2] Their move away from the construction and manufacturing industries has contributed to a skilled trades labor shortage in the U.S.[3]

This trend could be set to reverse soon, though, as more and more members of Generation Z (ages 7-22) enter the workforce.[4]

Discover why Gen Z might help meet demand for skilled craftspeople in the coming years in this article.

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Who Is Generation Z?

generation z skilled trade worker

The Pew Research Center defines Generation Z as those born between 1997 and 2012.[5] While many in this generation are still just kids, older members are at the age where career planning typically becomes important. And, research suggests Gen Zers may be much more serious about their futures than the generation before them.

Unlike Millennials who entered adulthood as the economy was growing, Generation Zers grew up as Americans grappled with a recession. They watched student loan debt more than double over the last 10 years, forcing many Millennials to live with their parents for longer.[6][7]

This has, by many accounts, made them a pragmatic bunch.

Financially Responsible

Retirement planning experts have compared Gen Zers to Baby Boomers. Jamie Ohl, president of Lincoln Financial Group, said the parents who weathered the Great Recession have been teaching their children to save just as the mothers and fathers coming out of the Great Depression did.

The results of a survey Lincoln recently conducted of 15- to 19-year-olds supports this view. Gen Zers rated landing a job, completing college and saving money for the future as their top three priorities. Sixty percent indicated they already have savings accounts. Seventy-one percent said they are planning on saving for the future.[8]

These survey results align with the findings of a report by Barna and Impact 360 Institute, called  Gen Z:

  • 65 percent of Gen Zers indicated they want to become financially independent before the age of 30.
  • 42 percent said they believe financial independence is the mark of adulthood.[9]

Career Driven

With their strong focus on financial independence and security, many Gen Zers are career driven.

Maya Makino, a college student in Washington, recently told Fast Company that, after growing up during the recent recession, she feels “a lot of stress about finding a job after college and being able to support [herself].” She’s focused on finishing school in four years and having a promising career path.

“There’s less time for reflection, because there’s that worry about whether you’re going to be able to survive in the economy if you’re not really directed,” said Makino.[10]

She’s not alone. Two nationwide studies of 4,000 teens about job attitudes found that many were in “survival mode” and viewed career planning as a fight for what they want. Unlike their Millennial predecessors who felt entitled to jobs, Gen Zers “would feel lucky to get a job.”

But they’re not ready to take on massive loans for their careers. Drowning in college debt was the number one worry of 67 percent of Gen Zers in the survey, and 75 percent reported that college isn’t the only route to a good education.

The study can be found in the book GenZ@Work, and its results are consistent with those of the Gen Z report, in which 66 percent of Gen Zers said they wanted to finish their education and start a career before the age of 30.[11][12]

Why Could the Skilled Trades Appeal to Generation Z?

Many skilled trades careers could help Gen Zers meet their goals of entering a career before the age of 30 and without the debt load that typically accompanies a college degree.

A welding program at a trade school, for example, can be completed in as little as 7 months. The cost of trade school generally ranges from $3,000 to $15,000 per year.

Compare this to the 4 years of college required for a bachelor’s degree, which could set a student back as much as $32,410 a year. Add to this National Center for Education Statistics data indicating many students at 4-year institutions take 6 years or longer to graduate.

Then there’s the skilled trades shortage. The construction and manufacturing industries will likely need qualified workers in the coming years, which could mean job security for those with the right training and skills.[13][14]

For those Gen Zers searching for a career in 2019, the skilled trades could be a promising option to consider.

Additional Sources