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How Trade Schools Can Fill the Growing Need for Young U.S. Manufacturing Workers

By Camille Grayson
on May 15, 2019

Over the next 10 years, U.S. manufacturers could create more than 4.6 million jobs, but they could lose more than 25% of their workers to retirement. This means there’s a growing need for young talent in manufacturing, and the steel industry is no exception.

The answer to this important problem is trade schools. Here’s how these two-year institutions can help the steel industry attract new talent to meet rising production demands.

New initiatives entice students to pursue trade schools

State and federal governments have acknowledged the need for youth in the manufacturing industry and are coming up with programs that expand training opportunities. In 2018, an extension of the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 was signed into law by the U.S. Congress to provide greater access to technical training and to spur job creation. In North Carolina, legislators passed a bill earlier this year that aims to expand internship opportunities for trade school and high school students.

The United States is also looking at Germany’s apprenticeship model as another option for trade school students. In this model, students spend about 50–70% of their class time gaining hands-on experience with companies. Ten states have already established their own apprenticeship programs, and some companies have already partnered with schools to provide direct opportunities.

More students are taking advantage of what trade schools offer

Trade schools have many advantages over four-year colleges. One of the greatest benefits of attending trade school is the opportunity to get hands-on work experience while still attending school. Trade-school graduates could join the work force sooner with less debt than college grads, could have stronger earnings potential, and could have shorter paths to possibly owning their own businesses someday.

More students are taking notice of these cost-effective benefits. From 1999 to 2014, the number of students enrolled in trade schools increased by more than six million. That attendance spike is an encouraging sign for steel manufacturers seeking young, highly qualified laborers who are ready to contribute immediately after graduation.

Scholarship opportunities are available

Aspiring students can visit these links to learn more about potential scholarship opportunities:

The steel industry might be getting older, but help is on the way. Thanks to trade schools and increased internship opportunities, the youth movement in steel manufacturing is upon us.