Advocating for the Future of Trades
Steven Long, co-owner of ACCA member GSM Services in Gastonia, NC, is on a mission to promote the value of careers in the trades.
Describing the current workforce trends as, “a dark cloud upon us,” Long shares how his own career experience relates to today’s reality. When Long was graduating high school in 1988, he and most of his classmates were encouraged to work toward attending a four-year university, with the possibility of a career in the trades never being brought up. “Learning a trade was never discussed, and frankly, it was frowned upon,” said Long. “Those wanting to get into the trades were looked down upon.”
Long shares that he was lucky enough to get a summer job in the HVAC world, exposing him to trade work early in life. In the years that have passed since Long graduated from high school, the view of the trades has continued, with some trades seeing a five-to-one retirement exchange.
To emphasize the opportunities for success in the trades, Long shares a scenario of two 18-year-old high school graduates. One decides to attend a four-year college, and over those four years accumulates $200,000 in debt, and has trouble finding a job in their field of study, and if they do, they end up with an average starting salary close to $50,000/year.
The second high school grad starts as an HVAC company apprentice making $14/hour and attending community college with the company’s scholarship and tuition reimbursement programs. After taking advantage of the tuition reimbursement program, the student makes $30,000 in year one, and $40,000 is year two, completing a two-year associate degree. They begin their career as a full-time service tech, and earn $50,000 to $60,000 per year. With career advancement, they can eventually hit $90-$100,000/year.
In the end, the way that people talk about the trades can change a student’s life forever. “There is nothing more noble than working in the trades,” said Long. “Where else can you ensure that people are comfortable and breathing clean air in their homes? Where else can you help homeowners live dry and safely in their homes? Where else can you ensure that someone’s crawlspace is not full of moisture and biological growth? The trades literally keep people alive and healthy. There is nothing important than protecting someone’s home and helping them enhance their health and quality of life. This is what those of us in the trade world are doing every day.”
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