Best News Of the Day

America’s colleges and universities have damaged our country badly, and don’t show any sign of reform. So one obvious path to improvement is for fewer people to attend them. Happily, that is happening: not only that, but young people are finding better alternatives. Links in original:

Long beset by a labor crunch, the skilled trades are newly appealing to the youngest cohort of American workers, many of whom are choosing to leave the college path. Rising pay and new technologies in fields from welding to machine tooling are giving trade professions a face-lift, helping them shed the image of being dirty, low-end work. Growing skepticism about the return on a college education, the cost of which has soared in recent decades, is adding to their shine.

Enrollment in vocational training programs is surging as overall enrollment in community colleges and four-year institutions has fallen. The number of students enrolled in vocational-focused community colleges rose 16% last year to its highest level since the National Student Clearinghouse began tracking such data in 2018. The ranks of students studying construction trades rose 23% during that time, while those in programs covering HVAC and vehicle maintenance and repair increased 7%.

Meanwhile, enrollment in four-year colleges and universities is down. That is a good thing.

One of the problems of recent years is the aging of our skilled blue-collar labor force. That is changing, as many thousands of young people are figuring out that the trades are a good way to go. The number of carpenters, plumbers, electricians and HVAC technicians is finally growing again.

The number of carpenters in the U.S. grew over the past decade, while their median age fell from 42.2 to 40.9. The same was true for electricians, whose ranks grew by 229,000 workers, even as their median age fell by 2.9 years, according to federal data. Other skilled trade occupations, such as plumbing and HVAC workers, have also trended younger.

There are a number of interesting anecdotes in the linked Wall Street Journal article, but I will highlight just one:

Alezet Valerio, 18, started at a construction site in Phoenix nine months ago, right after graduating high school. She was surprised when, in addition to learning how to hang drywall, her supervisors also began training her to run a robot that assists with site layout.

A guess: the people she works for saw that she was smart and decided to give her more responsibility. That happens all the time in the business world.

“It’s not at all what I was expecting,” says Valerio, who now spends a couple of days a week overseeing the robot’s work, making $24 an hour. The job can be exhausting—she rises at 4:30 a.m. every day to get on site before 6 a.m.—but she says she loves the feeling of getting to build something. She’s now planning to get a degree in construction management.

“I’m building skyscrapers and building a career out of it,” she says.

Such stories are legion, and in my opinion, all to the good. This is a theme I have been sounding for a long time, as in this 2017 report. I don’t think it is hard to figure out that we need more people with actual skills, and fewer people with hysterical prejudices about public policy who can’t make any discernible contribution.

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