A Plumber, A Plumber, My Kingdom for a Plumber

By February 23, 2009Education and Training

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Survey finds pool skilled of tradesmen heading down drain

Though there’s a catastrophic shortage of jobs right now, the RIDGID tool company foresees a yawning need with the retirement of more than a third of the nation’s plumbers in five years.

A RIDGID-commissioned survey, however, is throwing a wrench into an otherwise bright employment forecast. In the survey, 53 percent of the 1,090 high school seniors interviewed told pollsters they have no interest in working in plumbing, heating, vacuum and air conditioning and other trades.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the 167,000 skilled workers expected to hang up their tool belts in 2014 will open the door for 29 percent more heating and air conditioning specialists and 21 percent more plumbing technicians. The hitch, the survey found, is the potential workforce:

54 percent of the respondents said computer fields offer a “better future” than the working trades; 37 percent believe office work is “more respected than working with your hands” and a quarter of the high schoolers interviewed contend trade jobs are “old-fashioned.”

More at Popular Mechanics, which reports on the many programs that manufacturers and educators have launched to address the shortage of tradesmen, “Can New Programs Fix America’s Plumber Drain?” For example:

In St. Louis, Lindbergh High School has partnered with the nearby South County Technical High School. Students on a vocational track bus over to take everything from plumbing to nursing, then go back to Lindbergh to finish their academic credits. Lindbergh vice principal Ryan Sherp sees struggling kids enjoying their first academic successes once they begin technical classes, and he expects the trend to continue. “In the history of American education, we’ve seen the pendulum swing between classical education and technical skills. I think we are moving much more toward technical training.”

Indeed. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, median 2008 to 2009 plumber wages come in at $20.56 an hour, versus $15.10 median for all other occupations as of May 2007.

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