Are trades becoming more desirable than university degrees

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Are trades becoming more desirable than university degrees

There are many reasons why training for a trade would make sense in today’s market. Skills shortages are still widely reported. There are opportunities for any candidates who wish to put their energy into a rewarding career. It is still recognised in society that a trade offers a life-long skill. It is a badge of authority.  

Challenges lie ahead

Counter that with the situation challenging college and university graduates, who face increasing competition from their peers and increasing demand for top grades from employers.  The prospect of long term unemployment for graduates is a rising concern.

Failing to find adequate work has a terrible effect, particularly for those who were previously advised that this was the best route to job security and studied hard, only to be informed that jobs for graduates are in short supply.

Gone are the days when a non-specific 2:1 degree would have provided a comfortable berth in a white collar job. The Government appears disinterested, seeming to suggest graduates should lower their expectations and turn their hands to anything in order to get a job. How depressing that must feel.
The Local Government Association released a report (24 June 2012) stating that, regardless of the downturn, businesses still need qualified electricians, plumbers, engineers and environmental officers. There is a shortfall of 32,000 qualified applicants in Building services (electricians and plumbers): 40,000 people trained to fill around 72,000 new jobs. In Construction there are 123,000 trainees for 275,000 advertised jobs.

Cause for alarm?

By contrast, 94,000 people completed hair and beauty courses, though 18,000 vacancies existed. More than sixty percent of the candidates were aged 16 – 18.  The educational institutions in the media sector are training more than the required number to fill 65,000 jobs.  These are alarming statistics.

Studies have highlighted the effects of the downturn for thousands of graduates applying for jobs each year, while still being in competition with graduates from previous years, who are also trying to gain employment.

Graduates are in a catch-22 situation - they have a degree qualification, but no experience. Internships require experience, and so do masters degrees. They find themselves in no-man’s land, struggling to get a foot on the first rung of the ladder. They feel let down by the system and unsupported.

There are schemes to help counter this, the Graduation Acceleration Programme (GAP), set up specifically to advise parents and graduates on how to find work. Sadly for many, this must feel like putting a band-aid on a broken limb.

It is not acceptable to instruct young people to pursue a course for betterment and, having done so, inform them that their efforts were in vain. They are left with a mountain of debt, a society that has little sympathy and successive governments that will not be held accountable.


There are alternatives. Why not get a trade? There are many advantages – including the fact that a tradesman can earn as much as a graduate with the added prospect of job security. There are years of theory and practical study before you can call yourself a fully trained technician. Even then, you have to keep up with current practice development, guidelines, rules and regulations.

People value these core skills. The electrician and the plumber never go out of fashion and are always in demand. You are not doing the same job day-in, day-out; there is plenty of variety, with an additional benefit of seeing the job through. The harder you train, the more you learn. In time you become a specialist and can charge your worth accordingly.

Today’s career advice must be in accordance to today’s jobs market. There are many jobs available which would make rewarding and satisfying careers.  Candidates presented with the right advice and support could see a brighter future ahead.

Author bio:

Clive Wedderburn is a freelance writer/editor/chef/actor and concentrates on the practices in the workplace.

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