• College is not for everyone, and trade schools make a great alternative.
  • Trade schools offer solid skills that can transition into great jobs.
  • Arizona has a deficit of skilled workers
  • Mike Rowe Works Foundation is one solution to the worker shortage.

On Christmas Eve, I had a plumbing problem at my house. A nice man came out, snaked the drains, and checked a few other things, but nothing fixed the problem.

After he'd been onsite for at least two hours troubleshooting, he crawled under our house and found a pipe had burst. Many hours and many emergency fees later, the problem was fixed.

Trade jobs go unanswered in Arizona in spite of good salaries. Why?
The plumber who fixed the pipe under my house last Christmas made enough to buy gifts for his entire family. // Canva

I estimate he made enough from our one service call to pay off any Christmas debt he might have run up that season. It was worth it, though. He's a very skilled plumber, and once he isolated the problem and got the needed parts (also a challenge when many places were closed for the holiday), he did such a great job that I recommended him to my friends whenever the chance presented itself.

This got me thinking: why don't more people enter the skilled trades?

Why Getting Training in a Trade Might be a Better Option in Arizona

It's no secret: college isn't for everyone. For some, it's all we can do just to finish high school. The idea of attending four or more years of schooling can be overwhelming.

As much as secondary schools try to promote higher education, shop classes are just as important and, for some, a much more interesting and rewarding draw than learning where the human spleen is located or honing the ability to type 80 words a minute.

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Arizona is Facing a Shortage of Skilled Workers

Since the start of the pandemic, the gap has widened between industry and skilled tradespeople to fill jobs. It's been a bit of a head-scratcher. According to PBS News Hour, the labor shortage has spiked despite rising salaries. 

Trade jobs go unanswered in Arizona in spite of good salaries. Why?

So, what’s the deal? High-tech gigs are snagging all the limelight. However, trades like plumbing and electrical work are left in the dust.

The American Action Forum estimates Arizona and other states will face a severe shortage of skilled workers over the next decade. According to their projections, they say, "Current levels of educational attainment and skills development are unlikely to be adequate over the next decade." 

They're pushing for policy changes to encourage workers to acquire the skills to match employers' needs.

It's Less Expensive to Gain Skill and Training as a Trade Worker in Arizona

Skilled jobs are not just about getting your hands dirty; they come with impressive salaries. For example, plumbers in big cities can earn as much as $200K a year.

And that's not the only upside. According to Trade-Schools.net, depending on the type of training, a trade school for plumbing generally ranges from $1,000 to $23,000. 

Trade jobs go unanswered in Arizona in spite of good salaries. Why?
The return on investment for training could be much better for a trade, when debt is considered. // Canva

By comparison, a four-year undergraduate program at the University of Arizona costs over $54,000 for Arizona residents, and it's more than double that amount for out-of-state residents. That price tag doesn't begin to cover all the hidden costs and fees, like books, school supplies, living expenses, parking passes, and dorm fees. You get the idea.

Connecting Skilled Trade with Industry in Arizona

With high salaries versus a relatively low cost of training, you might be thinking, “Why aren’t kids flocking to the trades?” The answer is a mix of old-school stigmas and a lack of exposure. High school tends to steer students toward four-year colleges and universities, and they seem less likely to share information about the option of trade schools.

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There are ways to bridge this gap. Changing the image of the trades is a great way to start. Television's Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe rolled up his own sleeves, and he's put a lot of sweat equity into fixing this shortcoming.

Trade jobs go unanswered in Arizona in spite of good salaries. Why?
Mike Rowe and others are helping pave the way toward a career in the Trades. // Canva

Enter the Mike Rowe Works Foundation. "We've made work the enemy," Rowe's website declares. His organization aims to change that. He should know. He's walked a mile in the shoes of every trade you can imagine.

Mike Rowe is not alone. Across Arizona, we need to change the story that to get a good-paying job, you must have a four-year college degree. The word needs to spread into high schools about the sweet paychecks and solid job security.

Trade jobs go unanswered in Arizona in spite of good salaries. Why?
With so many trade jobs available in Arizona, getting the training can lead to a great future. / Canva

Remember, it’s all about giving trades the spotlight they deserve and showing the next generation that these jobs are the real deal. Let’s roll up our sleeves and show Arizona kids real work pays.


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