Trades in High School – the Great Come Back

Trades in High School – the Great Come Back
Jillian Bateman — March 23, 2022

Recently one of my Dad’s Facebook posts caught my attention as it was titled, “It’s Time to Bring Back Shop Class”. I think it, and others like it, are making the rounds pretty consistently on social media. Turns out this meme was more of a video that provided statistics on workforce shortages in manufacturing, and data on how many people lack mechanical skills to do simple household repairs. It surprised me because the overall message was there was no longer ‘shop’ class in high schools. 

I attended high school in the 80’s in a small Canadian town (3,000 people) and we had several shop classes to choose from: mechanics, woodworking, cooking, and engineering. These classes were catalysts for so many people to find skills that they excelled at and enjoyed. Considering that I now oversee a ‘shop’ type training program for the electronic security industry, I decided to dig deeper and discover if this meme was really true – was there truly no more shop classes? 

Turns out, it isn’t true. Well, to be more specific, it’s no longer true. Ten years ago, it was closer to the truth. Starting in the ’80s, shop classes and career-ready offerings started to decline. Between 1990 and 2009, the number of high school credits earned in career-ready courses declined 14% (According to the National Center for Education Statistics, NCES.) This was due to reduced state funding and a push for students to enter degree programs. In addition, the graduation requirements increased during this period, which required students to take more academic courses, which in turn left less time for career-ready courses.  

The good news is that students are now being offered more and more opportunities to choose trade related classes. These programs are more than just courses, they are career pathway programs that provide in-depth training into a profession.

The goal of these programs is to have high school graduates that are fully employable into a trade or profession. My daughter is entering 9th grade in the Fall, and I am happy to say that the high school she will be attending offers a career pathway in Construction Technology. This pathway can even lead to an Associates Degree and includes courses in power tools, construction drawings, building codes, and site safety. The driving force behind the growth in these offerings is the need to close the gap on the growing skilled workforce shortage. Recent federal and state legislation has passed that provides additional funding for these programs. In order to satisfy the demand and comprehensive course offerings, many school districts have created regional vocational and technical high schools that serve all students in the area.  

We encourage all ESA Members to reach out to their local high schools and see if they offer career ready training programs. Many times, the faculty of these programs are desperate for guest lecturers, and the career counselors are looking for job opportunities for their graduates. If you find a vocational program that is lacking security installation training, please send them our way as we would love to see what we can do to help provide the needed curriculum.