Discussion continues on bringing high school graduates into skilled trade careers


North Augusta, SC (WJBF)- For years the number of high school graduates entering skilled trades has declined.

Members of the panel at a North Augusta Chamber of Commerce Luncheon say that stereotypes about trade work are keeping high school seniors from pursuing those careers. They say not all students are cut out for college and those who work in skilled trades will always have job options.

Eric Presnell is the Vice President of Aiken Augusta Electric and Security. He said making sure kids have all the information is key.

“We need to raise awareness and tell kids ‘Hey! There’s a path other than college.” The big problem is that when I was a kid and probably when you were a kid you had the motivational speakers come in and say ‘You gotta go to college or you’ll never amount to anything.’ And well, that’s just not true.”

Speakers at Thursday’s Luncheon included Presnell, David McGhee of SITEC Construction, Shalonda Morris of Universal Plumbing, and Rick Busby of Busby’s Heating and Air. They all agree that it’s time to bring young workers back into skilled trades at school.

“Well it’s going to start with the schools themselves. I mean, when I went to school, you had shop classes, you had Home Ec. We don’t have those anymore that I’m aware of. I’m sure some schools offer it and some don’t. But it starts with the parents and the schools to let them know “Hey. There are career paths you can take that do not involve college,” Presnell explained.

Rick Busby said that in many cases pressure from parents keeps students away from trade work for fear they won’t be successful.

“I think many parents push their children to college because they thought they had to go to college to earn a great living. And that’s not the case anymore. The trades have changed. The pay scale has changed. The opportunities have changed. I know many people in our industry that are making more than the college graduates,” said Busby.

The panelists all said there are many resources to help students find a trade job they are interested in. Busby says students don’t have to go to a trade school to have a career.

“We’re just trying to find good quality people now and we’ll train them. They don’t have to know anything.”

The good news for students going into trades? The panelists say business, it’s booming.

“We’re in dire need of people who can fix their hands. The baby boomers are retiring at record rates. A lot of people aren’t taking over their companies, so it’s leaving us…you know, we’re busier than ever. And I’m sure the plumbers, heating and air, everybody is. And we’re having problems filling, not only the workers positions, but there’s no new guys coming in to get their contractors license to start doing this,” said Presnell.

The panelist said almost anyone looking for a job can find one in the trade industry and there are many online resources for students looking into skilled trade as a career.

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