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Trade school, not 4-year college, is a better bet to solve the US income gap (cnbc.com)
292 points by SQL2219 5 days ago | hide | past | web | 281 comments | favorite





I would simplify it and say that learning trade skills is a better investment for most people than attending a 4-year college. Trade skills can be learned at a young age, right from home, where there is room and time to explore and enjoy the learning process. Why we wait until after high school to teach kids in-demand skills boggles my mind. All the pressure in the world arrives after high school. It's time to start paying the bills and to grow up. It's no wonder most kids go off to college because they have zero marketable skills upon hs graduation and college is a way to get an extra 4 years to acquire some skills.

The sad part of that is all the kids that get caught up in the college wave. They get pressured to go to a 4 year school, take on a mountain of debt for a degree (if they are fortunate to graduate) they most likely won't use. So many students would be better off exploring the different trades and finding one that they really enjoy. There are hundreds of them.

I've been working on a project lately to help people explore and learn the trades online. Tradeskills.io It started as a side project for me a number of years ago teaching people how to get into the appliance repair trade. I've had over 600 students all across the country and Canada go through my training. The trades can be learned online and I think tech will need to play a big part in this area of education in the coming years.


One thing that has really opened my mind on this is Amazon Home Services. Basically, if you're incorporated, insured, and can provide a few references proving you do decent work, Amazon will shovel business your way. And you can limit the services you provide. For example, one of the services you can buy on Amazon Home Services is "Door knob replacement." This is a VERY low level skill that requires only the most basic tools. The price in my zip code is $77. Amazon takes 20% off the top, so your business makes $61. By the time you include travel time, fuel, etc, you're probably making $20-30/hr doing ENTRY LEVEL labor.

And there's a ton of services you can offer through the AHS portal: home theatre setup, house cleaning, lawn maintenance, plumbing, computer repair, electrical etc.


What's amazing to me is that there are people who don't feel like they're capable of changing their own doorknob.

(I get it; there are some people who would rather just pay, but surely some of these people just don't feel like they could manage this task. That's wild.)


I live in a duplex and my neighbors are always impressed when I do simple things like fix cat5 cable caps, screw/caulk down a loose doorframe trim, or sometimes even just for having basic tools at all.

When I was installing my blinds when I first moved in, a group of neighbors from down the street were walking by and asked me (through the open window) if I was the hired help (guess cus I looked too young to be the owner and too not-hispanic to be the usual hired help in the area, and god forbid anyone do their own manual labor). That was awkward.

Yea I don't get it either, but I know exactly what you're talking about. It's like when you see the meme/trope about Ikea furniture being hard to assemble. Really? What?


> It's like when you see the meme/trope about Ikea furniture being hard to assemble.

Oh dear, I always thought that was about missing parts or pieces not fitting. This gives a new perspective …


I don't think missing or misfitting parts is a common problem with Ikea -- I've certainly put together a fair amount and haven't run into those problems.

TBH, I think many people don't have the patience to follow the instructions. Even with the wordless ones Ikea uses, it can take a few minutes of study to understand the exact orientation of pieces a diagram is calling for.


I actually find wordless instructions much harder to follow; insofar as Ikea builds.are difficult (they rarely are particularly, mostly just time consuming drudgery which isn't the same thing), it's because of rather than in spite of wordless instructions.

The ikea thing is different. (ok, you’re probably right for many people, but...). I find their issue to be that it’s easy to miss a step, and if you do, you often don’t catch it until 30 minutes later. And then you have to undo everything back to that missed step.

That's wild to me too, but rich lazy people who subcontract out everything is much better for society than rich people who hoard their money forever, so I'm certainly not going to shame them about it :)

There aren't enough rich people who need services to give people jobs. Martin Ford's "The Lights in the Tunnel" makes this point.

maybe they are rich because they work hard/long for more than $30/hr ?

There's as much here that's cultural as economic. There's no ceiling on how much I'd have to earn before I'd pay somebody to do that kind of work for me, because (for someone with my working-class background, at least) hiring someone to do that for you feels degrading and emasculating.

It's a simple task you can and should do yourself. Money has very little to do with it.


It doesn't really matter to me why they're rich as long as a proportional amount of their earnings is reinvested in their local community, jobs, and infrastructure :)

One obvious market is elderly folks who aren't getting around well anymore.

I think the more likely market is those elderly folks' children, who'd rather pay on Amazon than take the time to visit their parents.

Assuming they have children.

Though you're right, that's probably common too, particularly when the children live far away.


Agreed+. This is anecdotal, but I tried recently to get roof repairs made in CA for a rental home I own. I called 20+ roofers none of whom are taking new projects. I was able to get one quote from a friend of friend for over $1k for about 4 hours of work -- but he made no commitment. Plumbers, AC guys, roofers are in incredible demand in CA - need an electrician? forget it. These guys all own their own companies, drive nice trucks, are booked until feb '18 and have rude secretaries. The future seems bright for them, not much competition (know anyone learning HVAC?), a push for new housing all over CA, and I have no idea how to outsource a plumber.

Honestly after a recent home renovation, I found myself a little envious I didn't take house building as a career. It's definitely skilled labor and in high demand.

It's not a "sexy" job - you'd be more likely to get a date telling someone you're a software developer than a plumber. But the low prestige of the job seems to make it worth .kre.


A few years ago one of the guys in my IT Ops team quit his job to start his own company and become a plumber. Next year he made twice the money of his peers, and worked fewer hours. Now a few years later, his house is twice the size of mine and he works about 50-60% when all is said and done. I don´t envy him working the filthy London piping, but my gosh he makes good money.

If you're using your job to get dates you're doing it wrong ;)

At least in the US, a person's job is a big part of both their identity and their brand. "What do you do" is one of the first questions that come up in most conversations, and everyone judges everyone else (at least subconsciously) based on the response.

Back in another life I did a lot of online dating and tested this hypothesis by telling some of my dates that I worked as a garbage collector for the city. Those dates pretty much always ended early. :) I had drastically higher success when I told them my real job: software consulting.


be a plumber. splash the cash, lie.

It's the same everywhere.. HVAC guy in a rural area near me cleared $400k a year. Only know about it because he had some tax issues so it got written up in the paper.

The best way is to go through your insurance company if you can. They have contractors who have to take jobs. This leads to another idea that a good business might be selling a remodeling membership plan where you get access to contractors.


That sounds odd. Why don't roofers increase their fees until supply matches demand?

I would guess that roofing services have inelastic demand, meaning that a change in price doesn't affect demand much. A home owner often doesn't have much choice about whether or not to repair their roof, if it needs to be done then it needs to be done.

If that were true, it would mean that a roofer would need to raise prices a great deal in order to reduce demand a small amount. In such circumstances, it would probably be very profitable for a roofer to increase prices. The opposite (roofing has very elastic demand) is probably more likely. Under elastic demand, a small increase in prices would lead to a large decrease in demand. Under those circumstances, a roofer may prefer the certainty of 100% utilization at a slightly below market rate to having to struggle for contracts at the market rate.

That's only true if the supply side of the market is non competitive.

They are, in most regards. In most places in the US the cost of reroofing a house has doubled or tripled in the last decade.

Because the industry basically milks the insurance companies, the customer doesn't actually pay (much).

Most reroofing is due to wear and tear - insurance does not cover it.

Insurers have huge negotiating power since they bring a lot of business.

Depending on circumstance, they may also be tied to whatever home insurers deem proper for a roof. I'd guess roughly a third of my peers have had their roofs replaced and paid for by their home insurance (storm damage - tree limbs, hail, etc).

Your comment reminded me of an essay Paul Graham wrote. (See the link below.) He argues that modern society has taken kids, isolated them from participating in greater society, and made school a "job" to them. The consequence is that teenagers feel out of step with society because they don't participate in it, the way that they did when apprenticeships were common. This observation supports the premise of the essay.

It's a thought-provoking read.

http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html


That's interesting. I was a volunteer firefighter from ages 12-19 and while it's not for everyone (and some tasks were not for me) the overall experience during that time in my life taught me a lot of values that you don't get in sports / schooling... the value of a human life- and that is- that you would put yours on the line for theirs. Not to mention to see someone TRULY in need and being equipped to provide that assistance.

It also taught me that a LOT of people still behave in adulthood as they did in their adolescent years and they try to "smart-shame" those that have / persue "book smarts" since many of them work as skilled laborers and didn't care much about schooling / education.


>they try to "smart-shame" those that have / persue "book smarts"

I suspect this anti-intellectual attitude is underrated as a key problem in American culture. There could be greater value for lifelong learning, science (as in valuing empiricism over arbitrarily inventing your own facts), problem-solving oriented attitudes, and open-ended discussion. People shouldn't feel complacent and act like they don't have room for more knowledge and improvement.

Parents pass on flawed ideas about education or have lax standards about school work performance. I'd see evidence of this as how the most affluent class tends to put a lot of emphasis on educational achievement and the results pay off (but I don't believe this status quo is the best approach).

It exists in our politics. An open hostility toward The Establishment often includes institutions of education.

It inhibits the effectiveness of schools and teachers if a student lacks the attitude and is unreceptive. A student can both have a strong work ethic but not care about educational attainment. Evidence of this might be that increases of spending on education seem to lack consistent increases in outcomes. Early childhood education is seen as beneficial, but then the benefits tend to even out (maybe as students become acclimated to anti-intellectual culture).

People who can learn how to learn, or who appreciate and support those who can as leaders, will generally be better off.


This is a tangent to your comment: Its pretty common to see people complain about anti-intellectualism as a big problem in modern society. Then, you ask people like Mike Rowe (and I'd bet the author of this article) what the biggest problem is and they'd say its anti-blue collar.

At first I thought these two ideas were at ends, but the more I think about it the more I wonder if the real root concern should just be that too many people are anti-work, either physical or mental.


Part of that anti-intellectualism is viewing people as anti-"real/hard work". If your job disappears because it's outsourced, automated, or you throw out your back, you are going to be more successful in finding satisfying new work if you didn't stop learning.

What I'm talking about applies to all people, including blue collar workers. I have a blue collar background, and I've worked labor intensive jobs. I grew up in a red part of the country, but it applies there as well.

I'm not debating if people should go to college or trade school. Mike Rowe has a dog in that fight but I don't. He claims that there is a shortage of people in the trades. If that's true, why don't companies raise wages and signal that there is a need?


Actress Gal Gadot talked about serving in the Israeli military. I'm paraphrasing, but she said it taught her that there are bigger things in life than herself. It sounds like you had a similar experience as a volunteer firefighter.

> They get pressured to go to a 4 year school

You're not kidding. My kids are in high school and the pressure on them to go to college is nuts. They push it so hard that it makes me wonder if there's some kind of reward for the teachers based on the number of kids that go on to college.


Very likely. In my country, schools are rated by % of kids getting into universities.

Teachers are also punished for kids who give a try at non-mandatory exams, but fail. Those who wants to get it into university damn sure work hard. Meanwhile people who don't aim for university and take those exams for the lulz are likely to damage teacher's statistics.


You have statistics for teachers? That's just plain stupid to be honest.

That depends on what it is they are measuring and what they use those results for.

No less stupid than rating schools by acceptance to universities. Gap-year and trade schools should be encourage whenever they make sense. But the rating does not incentivise looking out for kids interests.

Another fun fact - one of the points to certify a school as "gymnasium" is attendance. My school was certifying for that status during my last year. One of the vice-principals was nicknamed "12th graders attendance" since her office door was opening directly to cafeteria/lounge area and her #1 job was to make sure we attend as many classes as possible :)


In my high school/gymnasium students needed to bring a signed excuse from parents if they missed a class -- even if they were already 18! -- and too many absences would automatically disqualify the course even if you had a good reason, such as being sick. No overseer really needed for persuading students to attend class.

We had to bring in the excuses too. But the harshest penalty was calling in parents once you reach certain threshold. Which may or may not work, depending on your parents attitude. But as long as you skip a class or two a month, there was next to no consequences. Aside from explaining absent marks in your papers to your parents, of course. Which may or may not be easy to remove. Although forging parents' signature may be even easier.

No amount of absence would invalidate the course. But you if miss a test/quiz/project/etc, you automatically get 1 (out of 10). If you bring in a good excuse - of course you can re-do it at later date. If annual average drops bellow 3.5, school jury decides wether you can transfer to next year or not. In final year, < 3.5 would prevent you from taking that specific exam (which may give bonus points at your chosen university). If that exam is mandatory, then you have to repeat the course next year or drop out...


> makes me wonder if there's some kind of reward for the teachers based on the number of kids that go on to college.

yes, there is.


perhaps a bit controversial but there's the viewpoint that college and the degree you pay for is simply access to a social network / community where as outcome hands-on, trade skills aren't necessary in the chosen career path

This is still absolutely the case for top tier schools - the Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, etc Ivy/West Coast Ivy level schools are all about building a social/professional network that will last the rest of your life. These are also the kinds of schools where financial aid dramatically reduces costs for the majority of students - many of them offer varying levels of financial aid up to family incomes of $180,000/yr.

The problem is public and less selective private colleges that have the same price tag as these schools, but deliver much less value.


Public schools don't have the same price tag, (except out-of-state schools which are essentially private with respect to those foreign students).

The Ivies are interesting but statistically irrelevant simply because they have so few total seats.


The one issue with home appliances is that they are becoming disposable and cheap enough to just throw away and buy if it breaks. Although the higher end stuff still breaks down and may justify a repair cost but a $300 dishwasher does not. Even washer and dryers are now very close to being disposable. I would have hoped it had gone the other way with today's products being super reliable due to improved manufacturing and technology but we got cheap and fancy useless features vs cheap and reliable.

I think you can get cheap and reliable still, but it takes some looking. (I'd probably start with Consumer Reports.)

I bought a Consumer Reports highly rated dishwasher last year and it's turned out to be a complete nightmare. In fact the thing has destroyed my countertop and cabinet. In retrospect, googling the dishwasher brand/model and issues (steam / excessive moisture) basically would've saved me the pain since other people already had reported similar problems. I think my issue though is I didn't buy the cheapest one.. instead I got a whole kitchen package.

I don’t know why it has to be one of the other, university generally isn’t vocational training. I know lots of people who went to university and then did a trades program, I don’t think any of them really regret getting their degree. Of course this was Canada and nobody had racked up 60-80k in debt.

In the US, that would be called a college, not a university. A university is research+teaching institution.

Maybe I was unclear, they did bachelors degrees at universities and then later went to trade school.

Technical school started as early as sophomore year in my high school. My teacher was an absolute fuckwad.

I wish I'd taken my step-dad up on his offer and done an chippy apprenticeship when I was 17.

Instead I flailed around, did some c programming, some web development, never went to uni. I even managed to get myself that first job as a software dev, slowly trading upwards, but it always worked against me that I was a high school drop out and had no degree.

Later in life, I looked upon the lack of degree as an asset, I worked harder than the guys/girls who did have a comp/sci degree, because I felt I had to prove myself constantly, to out-do those with a degree.

But I always look back and think, man, I wish I'd just done a carpentry apprenticeship. It's not like the systems change underneath you ever few years, that you have to learn a new "circular-saw" to help you cut timber because everyone is using it, even though the job you're working on, you could get away with a regular hand-saw. The analogy is shit, but you get what I mean.

Any friends/family who ever say "I'm thinking of being a plumber/sparky/chippy" I wholly encourage them.


I come from a blue collar family. I was the first person in my family to graduate college. But that wasn't my plan initially. During summers in high school I worked installing HVAC systems. After graduating high school I started a plumbing apprenticeship. It was what I discovered during that apprenticeship that made me decide to go to college instead (during college I had a job doing carpentry as well).

I'm not saying all people in the trades are this way, but you find a lot of people who are alcoholics. It often does not impact their job, but people drinking a case of beer a day is not uncommon. If you can avoid drinking, the next problem is the damage you do to your body on the job. You are often lifting heavy things. You will be using dangerous power tools often. Any little loss of focus will lead to serious injury or worse. And even if you avoid that, there is only so much your body can take. Many people need surgeries or become crippled as they age.

Many of the people I once worked with have died from alcoholism, smoking, or related cancers. My own father is now forcefully retired due to back and knee issues. He can barely walk. He meets up monthly with the other people he worked with, who are now retired, and it is not a pretty site. I personally don't know anyone in this line of work who is happily retired and living the dream, so to speak.

The trades are very much about physical work and physical labor. Not everyone can take that kind of work for a lifetime.


Obviously not to discount your experience - but I come from a family of carpenters, on my mom's side, and do not observe the issues you describe in my family. My grandfather, for instance, is still extremely healthy in every way at 82 or so, drinks a glass of wine or pastis every few days, and is generally enjoying retired life.

The main difference is that I am from France, and as such my family enjoyed all of the socialist government policies like weekly hour limits, centralized healthcare, plenty of paid time off, etc.


Yes, my experience is in Midwestern USA. Other places may be quite different. Generally, the way it works here is that there are two main trade paths. One is as part of a union, which is mostly new construction. The second is non-union, which is often replacement and/or service of equipment.

If you're in a union, you basically pay union dues so that the union represents your interests. The power of unions vary widely in terms of healthcare, pensions, jobs available, etc. You get paid via a "scale" based on tenure. But in general, when new construction comes up (houses, skyscrapers, power plants, etc.) you get allocated to those jobs based on your tenure. You may work the same jobsite for years, or maybe a month. It just depends on how big the job is.

Alternatively, if your toilet is clogged, or a pipe is leaking, that is generally a service call. And that is handled, typically, by non-union work. With non-union work, you work specifically for a company. That company provides you with whatever benefits they offer (healthcare, retirement, etc.). When you work service, it almost always includes an "on-call" rotation. You get paid whatever hourly rate you can negotiate with the company and get paid overtime for off-hours work.

Unions are closest to what it sounds like you have in France. But trade unions here have lost much of their power over the years.


Do you think this is sort of the "grass is always greener" situation though? I find myself regretting not doing something a little more hands-on as a career, so I built some hobbies around it.

[edit: Also.. after witnessing the dysfunction of a home builder i worked with last year over basic Project Management work, I can see room for a lot of improvement if a programmer were embedded in their office. Maybe an idea for others identifying with your same situation.)


For anyone else who doesn't speak British, Chippy = Carpenter

when we barely avoid armageddon artisans will be the only jobs in town.

Just wait for all the robotic artisans!

For real, creativity isn't going to stay a human property, and we'll have to understand what humanity's place really is - maybe not "working" at all.


I reacted strongly and positively to the headline of this piece...and even more positively to the article.

Apprenticeship was once considered more important than academic degrees in many areas. The balance has gone too far towards academia, and blue collar 'workers' don't get nearly enough respect IMO


I generally agree with you, but I'm always hesitant when I hear the word "apprenticeship." Because in my experience that usually means a union is stopping less experienced workers from undercutting their prices on the open market by forcing the less experienced worker to pay the union for the privilege of doing work. In this way it functions similarly to the way the college scheme works, only the college scheme is for white collar work rather than blue collar work.

Now, the word apprenticeship doesn't HAVE to mean that. In its simplest form it just means working with a more experienced person to get skills. That I definitely support. But if apprenticeship means stopping less skilled workers from entering the market on their own, I'm opposed to that.


Apprenticeships should be regulated (by the state). You should have some degree at the end that qualifies you to also work for a potential competitor.

Meaning they should teach you a solid but generic base of skills. And not just let you do manual labour that doesn't require much skill.


Why would you want the state to stop poor people from earning a decent living just because they haven't completed the full set of requirements for a state sanctioned certification? The going rate to have your main sewer line snaked in my area is $250. If that's the only thing you know how to do, why can't you just sell that service?

Because clients are rarely capable of judging competency. You can crack pipes with a snake. Furthermore, certifications typically come with a registration requirement, meaning clients have a mechanism for formally filing complaints. Similarly, there are often bond requirements, meaning you know that if the technician screws up a job you'll have a decent chance at recovering damages. Getting a bond without securing the full face value is probably easier with a certification, too, because otherwise how would the underwriter know their risk?

Certifications are a public service. It's no different than for lawyers, doctors, or all the drivers on the road.

In some states the requirements for some types of certification are obviously intended to limit entrants into the market. But that's a different matter.


ALL certification requirements are intended to limit entrants into the market. Whether or not that's worthwhile is subjective.

If a client is uncertain of their ability to judge risk, then they can hire from a trusted industry provider/union and pay a premium. I'd still like the ability to legally hire a poor person who may not have received a good enough public education to fulfill all of the state requirements for certification if the job is low risk enough. And I suspect the poor person would generally like to feed themselves or their family, so it's a win-win except for the incumbent wealthy who don't want their prices under-cut.

I don't need the government to tell me the electronics I buy are safe to plug into an outlet, there's private UL certification for that. I generally don't need the government to tell me who I'm allowed to pay for anything, even medicine.


UL certification requirements are often incorporated by reference into law. Which is one reason why there's not a proliferation of private standards in that space, with the concomitant race to the bottom.

_You_ might not need the nanny state to protect yourself from yourself, but many people do. In fact, pretty much everybody does, at some point in their lives, in some circumstances. (You just don't know when or where.) And because their loses are invariably externalized one way or another, society has an interest in providing minimum safeguards.

It's like taxes: taxes wouldn't work if everybody got to pick and choose where their taxes went. These solutions are intended to solve collective action problems, which by definition cannot readily and consistently be solved by everybody acting independently.


If anyone wants protection from a nanny, state or otherwise, they can pay for it. Offer all the certifications at the state level you want, just don't interfere with my ability to do business with anyone I please whether they're certified or not.

>society has an interest in providing minimum safeguards.

Requiring you to work at below market rates for YEARS is not in the best interest of society. Harming the poor or immigrant workers by not allowing them to earn a decent living is not in the interest of society. All of these things are in the best interest of the incumbent wealth, not "society."

If you want some protection, then you can easily pay for it. Hire a contractor through Home Depot, Sears, or some other trusted industry name where you'll get lots of contractual protections and the benefit that a multi-billion dollar corporation wants to keep a good reputation if it wants people to keep doing business with it. This works much BETTER than taxes because everybody DOES get to pick and choose where their money goes.

>These solutions are intended to solve collective action problems, which by definition cannot readily and consistently be solved by everybody acting independently.

These solutions are intended to maintain incumbent wealth which harms the poor. You keep trying to sell me on you protecting me, which you obviously know I don't value, without addressing the fact that your ideology keeps the poor in their place. There's two wealthy groups you're protecting here. First, as the property owner, I'm almost certainly more wealthy than the laborer. And secondly, you're protecting the wealthy incumbent workers who don't want lower skilled workers undercutting them.


> Requiring you to work at below market rates for YEARS is not in the best interest of society.

But you are still in training. It's intended as something to do after middle school. Why should unskilled kids earn a full salary? They probably end up costing the company money during that time...

And also that's exactly where you need the regulation from the state! So it can ensure that you are actually properly training those people and not just using them as "human robots" to just do boring / unskilled manual labor.


You're still requiring a poor person to get the permission of a wealthy person to perform work they know how to do on the open market. Why would you cripple the poor in such a way?

How I'm I requering something from workers? A company can hire whoever they want. Where do you see that limited, by offering a special training for highschool kids?

You fail to see 2 things:

1. You could still hire anyone you want. Certificated or not...

2. The certificate is not just some random piece of paper. It does (or at least should) actually prove that you had some training in that field and are skilled.

If some people are unable to get such a training and a certificate, then the problem lies somewhere else (i.e. the reasons why they can't...).


That shouldn't stop the companies from hiring untrained people to just work from them.

But it would be nice if there was an "official" apprenticeship for young people as a valid alternative to a college degree. And that shouldn't be some specific training for some random company, but lead to a comparable skill level so you can work everywhere in the country in that field.


>That shouldn't stop the companies from hiring untrained people to just work from them.

Why does a wealthy incumbent need to be protected by having the state outlaw anyone from working without the wealthy incumbent's permission?


What? How is it stopping anyone from working or hiring?

Why do I need to go through your state approved apprenticeship program, which is going to be managed by wealthy incumbents, for the privilege of being able to perform work I already know how to perform on the open market? You're requiring the poor to get permission from the wealthy in order to work. Why?

16 year old kids already know how to be e.g. plumbers or electricians? Nice.

And also you dont NEED to. You can just learn it yourself and then somehow convince potential employers that you got the skills. What is stopping you from doing that?


Maybe you're not talking about the same thing Wahern is talking about.

Question: Let's say I know how to snake a sewer line. This is the kind of thing a handy home-owner would be able to rent the equipment for at Home Depot and do themselves if they were so inclined. That's literally the only plumbing skill I know. Can I offer that skill for sale on the open market to customers without first getting the permission of the state (certification on completion of apprenticeship) or an employer who offers me an apprenticeship?

Wahern is clearly saying that would not be possible. So that means that a poor person must get the permission of a wealthy plumbing business owner in order to sell their skills on the open market.


I'd say yes. But I guess you would have problems getting clients to trust you. After all if e.g. some "random guy" messes around with your eletrical cables your house could catch fire... Or water could leak into your walls...

I agree.

Which sort of "Apprenticeship" do you mean a Trade Apprenticeship doesn't let you move that far up the ladder

you would still have to get a degree level qualification if you want to progress assuming you have a permissive system that allows it until recently it was almost impossible to do this in Germany - the EU made them change this.


So what trade did you learn?

If you are asking me I was a graphic designer, mostly print work initially. It's a hybrid trade/skill set that gave me a good business grounding. I grew up in a generation where a lot of my peers in the UK were apprentices at Rolls Royce, Jaguar etc. I have no visibility into apprenticeships and how they are organized today...

It was just a snippy remark hinting at the many people in this thread saying how great trade skills are, yet very few of them actually do a job like that. I mean, commenters here mention 'the social stigma' and how unfair it is - but being a plumber is just a, well, shit job. Construction work isn't fun, when it's your job, and you're not the boss. There's a reason all those middle and lower middle class parents tell their children to get a degree - it's because they want their children to do better than they do. Working a high-skill office job is in pretty much every way 'better' than doing somewhat-skilled things like, I don't know, garden maintenance or HVAC installation or operating a printing press. Yet here are all people commenting (from their cushy office jobs, probably) how great those sort or jobs are.

How many people here would tell their children 'yeah forget about that LSAT and MCAT, do a one-year part time course in swimming pool construction, much better!'? Very few, I'd reckon. What's good for the good is good for the gander, right?


Half the issue is that all these people have done exactly that: we now have a glut of college educated young people, with supply outstripping demand, while the opposite is the case in the trades. The salaries each can command reflects this.

The tradesmen telling their children to go to uni do so based on their experience in a generation where there were far more tradesmen, with poorer salaries, and poorer worker protections. What we actually need in the workforce is _balance_.

A really good example of where this has gone wrong is over here in the UK: now, 50% of young people are expected to go to university and complete a degree. This means that you now need a degree just to be above-average, and most end up underemployed with student debts - it's simply the case that half of jobs do not require a degree, and this is going to shrink. Likewise, we've outsourced lots of our skilled trades to foreign labour coming from the EU. With the sudden change in how we work with the EU, the UK is going to see hard times with a distinct lack of skilled labour, with many being overeducated and in the wrong sectors.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/05/brexit...


> it's simply the case that half of jobs do not require a degree

The problem I see in the US is that because of the glut of degrees, jobs that should not require a degree do require a degree. The employers are making things worse when they require degrees for menial jobs.


Yes, sorry, when I mean they don't require a degree, I mean that the job tasks do not require a university education. Because of how widespread degrees are now in the UK, the job ad often demands a degree, on account of this being a good signal of simply being "above average".

I sat down with my daughter and very clearly explained why college for her was a bad idea. Her grades and ACT scores weren't good enough to get into lucrative fields, so I suggested she join the military with a specialization that opened skilled trade jobs. We discussed the benefit vs cost of the student loans, and she admitted that this would be a much smarter path and she is looking at very little career opportunity with a psychology degree.

However, you underestimate the machine that is high school and the impact that has on children. Despite all our conversations, her high school "advisor" insisted she go to college and convinced her to ignore the money aspects of it. When every other peer and parent of peer is feeding them the college or nothing lines, you start to look like an asshole being the only objector. How many times can you defend "Why don't you want your kid to go to college??" before you give in. Maybe there's some super-parents out there, and I did my best to show the reasons behind it, but she was 18 and free to make her own choices.


Women in general wash out of the military at much higher rates than men, mostly due to the fact their bodies are less able to deal with the serious physical stress of training. Women also really aren't going to have as many long term openings in the skilled trades for the same reason, mostly because it's hard, breaking-down physical labor.

There's little guarantee she can even do what you intend; she may very well go back to get that psychology degree after washing out of basic (god forbid she gets pregnant to escape duty)


And yet there is almost zero cost to trying out the option at first (well, outside of the harassment I hear about in the military, but that is sadly a universal concern). In the best case, she has an option that lets her join the workforce with zero debt, in the very worst, she drops out and starts CC a year or two late (which is negligible in the large scheme of things). If her scores really aren't making her viable for college admissions, then I see nothing wrong with considering less risky alternatives.

However, not getting a degree prevents you almost entirely you from making more than $100,000/year except in sales or you start your own business and make it successful (which is very hard without a degree), so you'll have to work until old ages and you'll never have the opportunity to get out of the hamster wheel.

> 'yeah forget about that LSAT and MCAT,'

Trade schools aren't the alternative to the LSAT and MCAT. They are the alternative to the SAT. Important distinction.

The point is that if you CAN'T get a professional white-collar job, you are better off learning a blue-collar school than getting a degree in nothing-marketable.


I sometimes think, with deep regret, that most people living at or below the poverty line at 30, their chances of rising above that are quite low. At 40+ it's next to zero. This may also be very generous. The amount of education, training, and opportunities would have to line up perfectly for someone to pull themselves up. Multigenerational, the odds appear much better.

I agree, but I’d like to add my 2¢ and mention that it’s not impossible either. Skilled trades really are in short supply and the pay is still good.

My dad lost his job as a construction worker during the recession, in his 50s. At that age we knew it was going to be an uphill battle to continue to rely on his physical health for work much longer. So he hit the books while my mother continued to work part time, which allowed them to live off their savings longer at least.

Upon passing class and getting his license, I helped them bootstrap all the way through to his first customer. A simple website + a few hundred a month spent on google ads does wonders. My mother now spends her time answering customer emails/estimates/calls/paperwork and it’s has become a self sustaining machine, and I have stopped running their ad campaign (Running off the good reputation/reviews).

Now their biggest problem is finding enough skilled/trustworthy labor to complete their bids in a reasonable amount of time. As well as capex (still bootstrapped, which means expensive equipment rentals that eat heavily into margins)

I’m not tying to trivialize this, it was/is an insane amount of work with much to do before one can consider that “he made it”. Just pointing out that there is hope.

More details:

- Bay Area

-Parents speak English as a second language and only went to high school


What class did he take and what license did he get? I couldn’t figure it out from your comment.

Does being a contractor in SF require passing a class / license?


Since this is a throwaway:

CSLB-C8 (Concrete contractor)


Experience based licenses keep supply limited.

FWIW the experience requirements didn’t seem too onerous for a profession. The rules seem to be in place to insure a standard of quality, not to limit supply artificially.

Furthermore, there are plenty of unlicensed contractors that we have to compete with, and a license requirement isn’t stopping them.


https://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/poverty/cb...

>While 29 percent of the nation's population was in poverty for at least two months between the start of 2004 and the end of 2006, only 3 percent were poor during the entire period.

Based on the actual data, your chances of getting out of poverty are quite GOOD.


The poverty line is, unfortunately, not very meaningful and too low.

[flagged]


There are also tons of studies and books that say it's not, and Piketty is hotly contested by many scholars.

[flagged]


> libertard

I'm not a libertarian (or a Republican), but referring to groups in these types of ways (repuglican, libtard, obummer, etc.) always seems to me to indicate somebody that isn't interested in rational discussion, and is dismissive of any ideas that don't jive exactly with their current, deeply-embedded political philosophy. I'd love for you to prove me wrong.


That’s a pretty absurd thing to say so matter of factly. 62% of US billionaires are self made [1].

Many of us tech workers have experienced incredible upward mobility.

1. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/269593


What percentage of self-made billionaires started out as millionaires?

what percentage of poor people become self-made billionaires?

What percentage of poor people who become self-made billionaires do so by going to trade school?


I think people argue past one another a lot about this because both facts can be simultaneously true: the US really is a land where a hard-working, smart, and motivated person (with a big pinch of luck) can work their way up from the top, and yet it's also a place where most people at the bottom aren't simultaneously hard-working, smart, motivated, and lucky. If they were, they would've moved up the rungs already.

I mean, if you lived in a strict feudal society, the nobility as a class was CLOSED. Commoners not admitted. End of story.

At the same time, even if say 20% of people at the bottom quantile of the wealth/income bracket make up into the next 20% every generation -- is that enough social mobility? Not enough? Should we just not have any poor people at all?

If the goal is to have no people who are poor, doesn't the fact that we admit millions of (relatively) penniless legal and illegal immigrants make that goal much harder to achieve?


You've arrived at the unthinkable thought. Why indeed, in a very rich country, do any poor people at all exist? Why is this crime not remedied immediately? The only possible explanation in a democratic society, is that somehow the upper classes have rigged the system via political machinations, voter suppression, dividing the intermediate classes against each other, and propaganda. It's a sobering thought. We might also ask ourselves, why are billionaires allowed to persist? Is that not itself, in the face of suffering, a crime on the face of humanity?

> Why indeed, in a very rich country, do any poor people at all exist?

There's an inherent tension between low-wage immigration levels and building a strong social state.

The stronger your social welfare protections, the stronger incentive there is for economic migrants to come (as Europe is also finding out), and the more voters perceive income and wealth transfers as mostly benefiting outsiders versus members of their own society.

This is part of what is creating the reaction from the right in the US and elsewhere.

All the 'solutions' for this have their own issues:

1. Don't allow recent immigrants the benefit of social welfare payments: this literally gives migrants second-class status and directly causes inequality.

Some countries do this though under temporary worker programs. The Gulf states come to mind -- generous benefits for citizens, almost nothing for cheap migrant labor.

2. Only allow well-off or well-educated immigrants: This only works if your country can attract educated labor. Properly executed, you get an immigrant class that is skilled and productive. Poorly done, and your system resembles a 'buy a citizenship' program. Also, your own educated elite may not welcome the new competition.

Canada looks a bit like this -- relatively high levels of immigration, but much of it is skilled. Some of it is just rich people HK buying houses in B.C. though. This directly hurts wage earners who live there by making housing unaffordable for them.

3. Get rid of your welfare state entirely (or don't build it). The US is sort of vacillating between this and option 1, unfortunately. Also the left has vehemently complained about option 2, which is Trump's points reform proposal.

Not sure what the best solution is, but I wish people would admit that there is a tradeoff involved and talk through them rationally.


There is a fourth option, though it's longer term. I think that's okay since we've been dealing with this problem for forever. Work together with other nations to raise their standards of living and labor.

We do some of that but then we also depose governments, start wars under the banner of drugs and terrorism. Those latter effects are huge and often not considered in concert with immigration policy. I'm stealing this analogy, but keeping these people out is like setting fire to someone's home and then locking the door.


You're downvoting me, and that's natural. I assume the bulk of vocal HNers are ancap libertarians (possibly some of you aligning with the Dark Enlightenment). However, you should take what I said more seriously. It represents a point of view with which you've perhaps had little contact, but is held by a significant (possibly even growing) portion of the population. It is diametrically opposed to many of the precepts you've been taught.

For instance, that process legitimizes outcomes rather than the other way around. That one is a bit weird, because the SV _thing_ is to conduct A/B testing and achieve outcomes at all costs. However, you also in your heart of hearts believe that there are institutions, such as schools, governments, and corporations that, solely on their own merits, elevate some people legitimately above others. You might also believe that hierarchy, coercion, and domination are legitimate elements of society when expressed in particular forms such as corporate officers, investors, managers, take-it-or-leave-it contracts, privatization, and denial of aid.

Here's a quick primer: https://www.currentaffairs.org/2017/06/the-difference-betwee...


The reason you’re getting downvoted has less to do with your argument and more to do with your tone.

The strawman doesn’t help either.


Can you clarify the issue with parent's tone? I only read a set of rhetorical questions that made a slight appeal to emotion, which seems appropriate considering that the future of peoples' livelihoods are being discussed.

I reread it and didn't sense that tone at all. I wonder if it's possible the parent edited, because it seemed incredibly sarcastic earlier.

I don't recall. I think I did add a sentence or two, but I don't think I changed it enough to change your read of tone.

Raising the idea that immigration might have negative effects is pretty much taboo here on HN.

Upward mobility is lower in US then in other western countries. The feudalism would have much lower mobility, but none of those countries have feudalism and did not had it for years.

Upward mobility is higher in Denmark, where I'm from, so that's what I'm familiar with. I don't think this metric necessarily measures exactly what people expect: The spread of possible outcomes is simply much tighter. Making $65,000/year puts you in the top 10% of earners, while the bottom 10% ends at $19,600/year. When tripling your salary is enough to travel almost the entire scale, obviously more people will do it. The same numbers for the US are $150,000 and $6,560 (not adjusted for purchasing parity or tax, so grain of salt). Or put differently, the 10%-90% income range for Denmark fits inside the 25%-75% income range for the US.

We have a lot fewer poor people in Denmark, and that's undoubtedly a very good thing. But there are also very, very few people who would be considered more than comfortably middle class in the US.

I don't know a good way to measure this, but I think that you can move further, faster upwards in absolute numbers in the US rather than in Denmark. I would expect that it's comparatively easier to for someone born around the 20%-mark to make it to 80% in the US than for someone to make it from 10% to 90% in Denmark, even though about the same journey in absolute numbers.

https://dqydj.com/united-states-income-brackets-percentiles/

http://www.statistikbanken.dk/statbank5a/SelectVarVal/Define... (Danish)


If I recall right, the mobility was measured by percentage of people who move out of their bracket. E.g. US kid born into 20% bracket is more likely to stay in that bracket. If you move, you make bigger jump (cause differences are bigger), but you are unlikely to move.

Where do you get the idea that we admit a significant number of penniless legal immigrants?

There are published numbers for immigrant income levels, for those interested in a little research:

https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/ssb/v68n1/68n1p31.html


Immigrants typically require sponsorship from a family member with minimum income requirements.

The minimums aren't high, but the sponsor has to make enough to support them, specifically so that they don't require government assistance.


Anecdotally, I worked for a CEO twice who had successful exits (8 figures), was raised poor.

What percent of billionaires come from Upper Middle class families?

Most.


Upward mobility.

Upward mobility is the reality. Look at the stats for people exiting the bottom quintile of household income.

> "There are too many four-year colleges serving too many students,

The Screwing of the Average Man [0] said that college used to be something the upper-class sent their children to so they'd have a leg up on the "uneducated" masses. Then the congress provided the GI Bill to subsidize college for WWII veterans. This kept disgruntled veterans occupied while the economy retooled to peacetime production. Thus began the college price spiral.

My great-grandmother played prohibition well, and sent all 4 of her children to teh college during the great depression. After WWII, the one grandfather didn't need any more college degrees and used the GI Bill to learn to fly small planes. My other grandfather had no interest in any college, so he didn't utilize his tuition credits... He certainly would've done better financially if he had...

[0] https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0553129139

The only class I enjoyed in my public school experience was my 8th grade "technology" class. This semester was broken up into woodshop, welding/metal working, "computers", photography, and (don't remember). 45 minutes of appreciated learnings, 5 days a week, for one semester. Everything else was busy work. I learned a few things, here and there, but not enough to justify the countless hours of boredom.

College was kind of a scam. I have an expensive diploma that doesn't mean anything. I learned a few things, here and there, but not enough to justify the $100k+ spent on my behalf.

John Gatto [1] says it's better to skip as much of the early years of schooling as possible: some children learn to read when they're 2, some when they're 8, and by the time they're 12 you can't tell the difference. I met a man a few months ago that was traumatized by not being able to "read" on the teacher's schedule when he was in 1st grade. He learned to read eventually, in spite of his school's efforts to force him to read before he was ready.

Allowing young children to have experiences in the real world instead of more classroom time would be much more valuable than giving young adults a choice of a trade school vs. more academics at age 18.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14425760

edit: clarification


> some children learn to read when they're 2, some when they're 8, and by the time they're 12 you can't tell the difference

I was sort of that late kid. I couldn't read a damn sentence by the time I got to 1st class. While probably half of the class could reading. But I learned to ready during the 1st year and never had any problems with that.

On the other hand, I did learn simple calculus yearly on my own. Didn't do virtually anything during 1st class maths. I got in trouble for that in 3rd? year when I (or my parents?) realised I was falling behind. I did catch up. But math is definitely giving me harder time than reading/writing. I wonder if that's precisely because I got lazy thanks to early start.

P.S. following card game is awesome for teaching kids calculus. No idea how it's called in English, but Google Translate should be good enough to understand the rules https://lt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karuselė_(kortų_žaidimas)


Sudbury and Montessori schools offer a model that seems to encourage students to learn at their own pace

Provides a positive feedback loop that seemed to have positive results in the real world as well


My children are in a Montessori school. There is no evidence that children from most 'alternative' teaching systems do better or worse than those in 'regular' schools. My children like the school and it's conveniently located, so we have no intention of changing; but it's not the teaching system that makes or breaks a student (well, the more loony systems like Steiner schools have documented worse outcomes than other systems, so it's not hard to make schooling 'worse'; making them 'better' than mainstream systems is quite hard - despite all the armchair opinions on this topic here every other day when this comes up).

  There is no evidence that children from most 'alternative'
  teaching systems do better or worse than those in
  'regular' schools.
I'd be interested to know more about that - could I ask where you learned that?

There's a lot of research on this; I read a lot about it procrastinating in the university library when I was wrapping up my law degree, so that was 5 or 6 years ago. I don't remember details. Probably if you start on google scholar and make your way from there, you'll find a lot of studies.

I was going to write that, there's a few books on Sudbury schools too

It seems like adjustment to society has nothing to do with 15 years of school because none of it matters, and just keeping people curious and off the streets has the most utility.


Remove the social stigma of not going to college. Hardly any tv shows that show young non college grads as positive.

>Remove the social stigma of not going to college. Hardly any tv shows that show young non college grads as positive.

Or just make college useful and accessible. Give people the option of a European style undergrad where there is no liberal arts breadth, only technical courses. If we had accredited colleges doing 3 year bachelor degrees in STEM, the system would be much more efficient.


That works in Europe because k-12 is more rigorous and you have to test into university. Lots of STEM majors are terrible at reasoning and writing, so I don't think skipping the liberal arts section would be helpful.

If you think credentialism is bad now, wait until the only thing stopping people getting Master’s and doctorates is their parents’ willingness to pay their living expenses.

Separate college’s education and credentialism functions. If the US government says it will recognise anyone who passes X test as having a Bachelor’s degree in X, for some value of X, there will be a reasonable number of people getting four year degrees in three, two or one.


> Or just make college useful and accessible. Give people the option of a European style undergrad where there is no liberal arts breadth, only technical courses

So just turn college into a trade school? All that would do is make trade schools more expensive.


I wouldn't call a "European style undergrad" a trade school. The only difference is that for example a math 'major' in Europe spends 90-95% of their time taking math courses, while in the US they might spend maybe 60-70% of their time on math courses. Thus you can get through the same 'relevant' course load in 3 years instead of 4.

Honestly we'd be fine with 1-year degrees for most things.

Like what? Are you saying that most degrees, taught at universities today, could be condensed into 1 year, and the outcome would be that we'd have 19 year olds with the same skills as the 22 year olds graduating today? What degrees do you have in mind?

Well, I for one did a 3-year digital media / game development degree, but the bulk of our learning (programming, maths, foundations of game- and web-development and multi-media) was done with after the first year.

The rest was far more focused on project management, 'self-management', scientific writing and project work.

I wouldn't say you could replace all of that with a one-year degree, but you surely could offer a foundation course after which people are capable to go into industry and work on their practical skills. I guess that's kind of what these 'coding boot camps' are doing now (I don't really know much about them).


Something like this would work with some sort of work-school program so long as the person learning is getting paid a fair wage while working (% of the learned person's salary, increasing as time goes on). But I feel trying to sell this sort of thing to businesses so this is the norm is going to be difficult. So sure, if someone can get this sort of thing, go for it.

But we still need the schooling option. For folks that want to start a business themselves. for folks that are getting other sorts of experiences while they are young. People wanting to continue schooling. And so on.


Most vocational programs are multi-year but the later years are work-placement supervised externships, since you can't command a meaningful wage just from your basic training year.

Almost half of the courses I took were subjects like English, History, Health, and so on. I don't doubt the value of these courses but they were competing for time and energy with courses like Linear Algebra and Calculus often to my detriment. I think an advanced degree could be condensed to 2-3 years or 4 years of part-time night school.

As an example, here's the first year timetable for the Computing degree at Imperial College London (I did this degree).

Notice the complete lack of anything that isn't computer science or mathematics.

The disadvantage is, if you decide you hate computing, you have to start again from almost nothing.

https://timetable.doc.ic.ac.uk/all/?start=02-10-2017&field=c...


This is how the French/European system works (3 year technical degree), which has already been suggested in one of the parent comments.

If colleges concentrated on 'be able to write, read and communicate', 'understand basics of math, physics, chemistry, biology, finance and IT' there would be no one to pay salaries of professors/teachers/staff/leaches in women's studies, basket weaving, and african interpretive dance departments.

Edit: No amount of downvoting will change that taking a classes in african interpretive dace department that satisfy the "cultural enrichment criteria" needed to graduate is a waste of money. Money spent on fluff and money that will need to be paid back.


Social stigma is not the problem. Employers requiring degrees for jobs that don’t require a degree are the problem. They force the cost on the student, and with demand for college education then bring inelastic, colleges have all of the pricing power to charge whatever they want.

I have seen it argued that the reason for this is that employers are prohibited from using intelligence tests to evaluate job applicants, so they use years of education as a proxy for intelligence.

Which it is not. Mostly it is a proxy for being able to deal with terrible bureaucracies (maybe useful?) and having enough money to live through it. (classist)

There is certainly a reasonable degree of correlation judging from the data I have observed around me.

But maybe it is different in my country because we have universities paid by taxes.


In some ways it is probably a better way to evaluate somebody’s fitness for the working world, since it requires some degree of intelligence and the ability to trudge through crap you don’t like. But it is an awfully expensive way to evaluate people.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Degree requirements are the last bastion of socially acceptable racism.

How is a degree requirement racist?

"The 6-year national college graduation rate is 59% for White students, 51% for Hispanic students, 46% for Black females, and 35% for Black males."[1]

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racial_achievement_gap_in_the_...


There are racial differences with pretty much everything in the US. Are benefits for poor people racist because they disproportionally help black people? Is having a required entrance average for universities racist because black people have statistically lower grades/graduation rates? Sure, if you are choosing to filter applicants based on criteria where the only effect of the filtering is changing the racial distribution, it may be racist, but that certainly isn't the case when you are filtering based on whether or not a person has a degree.

I wonder what those numbers look like without race and with income brackets.

I agree, but there is potentially a larger point when part of the cause is unequal access to education based on race.

I hate to burst your bubble, but yes, those are all evidence of systemic racism.

I agree to some extent as to how education is a barrier some minorites can't pierce, but those statistics seem pretty reasonable. roughly half of all students (though there seems to be a slightly lower-than-average retention in black males) in general drop out fro various reasons. Maybe the breakdown of reasons reveal some racism, but that isn't something you see at face value.

I think the larger problem causing the social divide is getting in to begin with, as opposed to retention.


Raising the minimum wage is even more socially acceptable.

http://nypost.com/2013/09/17/why-racists-love-the-minimum-wa...


Pretty sure you would not want your doctor to be w/o a proper degree.

This "racism" as you call it is perfectly applicable to some professions.


Pretty sure the topic was employers asking for degrees for jobs that don't actually requiring them. That does tend to exclude those professions - doctor, lawyer, and so on.

It is a little different requiring a degree to be a secretary when a year course would get someone proficient, for example. Heck, you can be a lawyer in four states without going to college so long as you can pass the tests. I'm pretty sure that sort of system would work for lots of professions where we want folks to be educated, but they don't necessarily need the training of say a nurse or doctor.


What about a black doctor? You'd be racist if you denied...

Maybe frame it in a positive way. Remove the stigma of going into the trades and becoming a skilled "blue collar" craftsman.

Improve the quality of average public high schools so that a high school diploma is a guarantee of basic literacy, science knowledge, basic schools, etc.

College degrees only work as a selection tool for employers since not everyone has one. High school degrees are currently nearly worthless as such a tool since nearly everyone (the current high school graduate rate in the US is about 83%) has one. You still need to get one, of course, since if you don’t have one, people will assume you dropped out either because you got addicted to drugs, or because you’re well below average in intelligence and/or conscientiousness.

College degrees are eventually going to suffer the same fate as the high school diploma due to all the pressure on people to go to college. And eventually, there will be political pressure in the US to make the government pay for universal college the same way it pays for K-12 education. Eventually, we’ll be encouraging extremely marginal students to spend eight years getting a bachelor’s degree and however long it takes such a student to get a master’s degree, and Social Security will collapse since no one will actually be working.


College degrees are not merely used as a selection tool for higher skilled jobs. In many instances they are used as a basic competency filter for literacy, ability to work in an office environment, etc. Indeed, many jobs merely require "some college" as a credential, not even a degree. That alone is enough of a filter. This means that jobs that require skills that any high school graduate should have are today out of reach for those people because they've been given a sub-standard education with a degraded market value. Which means that in order to be in any way competitive in the job market, even to get an entry level office job, often requires expending additional time and money, saddling oneself with college loan debt, and so forth. Today entering the job market from the bottom is a lot more difficult and more costly than it used to be, with significant deleterious effects on career/wealth advancement through life.

I think you’re assuming that there’s some minimum bar for “literacy, ability to work in an office environment, etc.” and that everyone above that bar is of fairly equal value to employers. I think you’re also assuming that nearly everyone can be brought up to this bar (note: if employers believed this, they could hire people without college degrees for cheap and train them on the job). As soon as you look at these traits as existing on a non-binary spectrum though, and employers wanting to hire people at an appropriate place along the spectrum (the most desirable workers obviously being more expensive to hire), I think it becomes obvious that any sort of filter that lets through everyone or nearly everyone is not going to end up being very valuable.

Politically impossible. Any plausible alternative has to pay a weirdness tax too because if you’re smart enough to go to college, why wouldn’t you? That makes high school irrelevant. And the UC system, among others, is working on making just having a Bachelor’s a poorer signal of literacy and numeracy.

Same with the stigma that trading-schools are somehow worse then college. Pretty sure it comes from elitism that people in colleges have towards non-college grads.

>> Hardly any tv shows that show young non college grads as positive.

Really? See Friends. And looking at a list of top current Sitcoms, RickAndMorty, Bobs Burgers, OrangeIsTheNewBlack, TheGoldbergs, KevinCanWait, even TheBigBangTheory has a leading character without any college education. The setup of the educated character being one-upped or taken down a peg by the more socially aware character is a standard sitcom trope.


> Really? See Friends.

> The setup of the educated character being one-upped or taken down a peg by the more socially aware character is a standard sitcom trope.

That trope is common on Friends. But out of the cast of six, there are four college graduates and two non-graduates, and the non-graduates are depicted as raging idiots.


I dunno, I thought The Wire was good. And the only guy who went to college in Game of Thrones is sort of a dork.

Seriously though, while this is part of the problem, I think the motivations behind this sort of thing are typically not really about what’s in the best interest of the working class. It has more to do with increasing political polarization of universities and a desire to reduce public spending on education, especially public education. The more straightforward solution is to ensure people can afford higher education if they want it. But if you’re more concerned about the short term bottom line, it’s easier to just let people either borrow absurd amounts of money for it or give up on that and go to a trade school.


I see Jobs that could be done with a high school diploma that now request a masters degree. This creates an insane hurdle for someone to get into the upper middle class.

Having people enter the workforce 4+ years sooner not only reduces debt it also allows them to be productive generating a lot of wealth.

Consider what it means if doctors skip an undergrad degree, it's not only less debt, but also more working years.


My sister had to get a masters in library science to be a librarian. It is insane, and there's almost a Stockholm syndrome around it.

No one could possibly exercise literacy, problem solving, and rational thought without going for at least another $20k+ of student loan debt!


Yup, and many STEM jobs that once provided on the job training and needed a bachelors now require a PhD.

Thus we get garbage doctorates. A doctorate was supposed to be the culmination of a scientific career.

Not just garbage doctorates, even PhDs from top 10/20 schools in STEM fields that did reasonable interesting research go off to be process engineers or other non-scientist positions that likely don't need a PhD.

I attended a 2 year vocational program for CIS in High School. It was heavily focused on passing the CCNA exam but I spent most of my time working running the class websites and learning the ins and outs of the LAMP stack. I had unlimited access to industry standard equipment and the freedom to break things without the risk of getting fired. It provided me with a solid foundation of networking and infrastructure fundamentals.

I passed on going to college due to getting an incredible co-op. I'm quite fortunate that my lack of a college degree has yet to limit my career. I give back by volunteering and providing co-op positions for the students of the program.

High School students are pushed to go straight to college and get a degree even when they're not 100% sure what they enjoy doing. They're not often provided with information about alternatives like attending a vocational program.


Isn't Germany, one of the more booming economies of Europe, a place that promotes the trades and provides educational tracks for interested students to easily get into apprenticeship programs? And where there isn't stigma against entering such a field?

I remember reading a study about happiness of people who did or did not get far in their life in stratified (like a caste system) and non-stratified societies. The surprising (or not) result was that people find it easier to accept an unlucky birth than only having themselves to blame. (Of course it is never only themselves.) With this unexpected result, some other things start to make sense.

Caste and class systems do cause inter-class resentment, but history has shown that it is usually not enough to tear a society apart. Such resentment can even be useful to make the working class recognize that it has to stick together to get a piece of the pie (cf. social democracy). So now you have decent conditions for the working class and it's somewhat respected by everyone. Being working class is not a stigma, it is... just less prestigious.

The German school system creates a kind of stratified society - do note that it selects nominally by actual ability (in fact the parents are quite important, independent of other factors). A small problem is that the lowest stratum has become the lowest few percent and, like almost everywhere, education standards are decreasing in the now enlarged highest stratum. Electricians (my parents know one) are struggling to find good enough apprentices, and some academics have trouble finding work because there is no demand for their academic skills.

Do note that evening schools to prepare blue-collar workers for university exist.

It is all very un-American and counterintuitive, but stratified societies seem to work. Of course I recognize the downsides - inequality of chances and lost opportunities. Very likely my opinion is also rose-colored because I grew up in and benefited from a time of great upwards mobility.

AFAIU, the class system in the UK is stronger and less permeable than the German system. The French system seems more permeable but it has a special kink in that it is stratified at the highest level - you either get into one of the top three or so Paris universities or you don't. More than half of all French industry leaders come from these top universities.


> And where there isn't stigma against entering such a field?

This isn’t true. Germany is the second most credentialist, title obsessed country in the world, with a class structure as obvious as in the UK, if different.


As an amusing factoid, Germany is the country where my spouse would be addressed as "Frau Doktor Doktor."

Those days are long over. The behaviour might still remain in some small circles (60yr old trophy wifes in a golf club) but is basically unheard and frowned upon pretty much everywhere else in society.

My last experience was 10+ years ago, so maybe there has been a drastic revolution, but I once worked on an 'account profile' page for a large, national company (in Germany) and one of the meetings went into this topic - should there be a 'doctor doctor' entry in the dropdown with all the titles someone could choose to be addressed as (so Prof, Dr, etc.). I, the barbaric foreigner, then proposed we just get rid of the field all together - more to fill in, more to get wrong, and who cares anyway? Jeebus, I might as well have kicked a puppy in the nuts right there on the table. How was a letter to Prof. dr. Mustermann ever going to end up in the right mailbox, if they couldn't specify whether it was Prof Dr, Prof dr, Prof or just Dr. Mustermann? These people spend hours coming up with the most ridiculous UI ideas of multiple comboboxes, check list boxes, what have you. So after a few hours I said 'then why don't we just put in a free form text field, so that people can just type whatever they want?'. Well that was the one suggestion I could have made that was even more ridiculous than leaving out the field. What if somebody would type in 'poopyhead' (or whatever the German equivalent is), and they would send a letter to Poopyhead Mustermann, and somebody would take a picture of that letter and send it to the newspaper, mocking the company for doing such idiotic things? (in those days they were more concerned about newspapers than websites).

I don't even remember what they choose in the end. I think just a dropdown box. I probably told them I'm make the list of titles to choose from configurable in their backend system and they could make it however they wanted later - which nobody probably ever bothered to do.


Completely untrue opinion of yours.

There is still a stigma... The difference is that you have to be kinda smart to even get into Highschool first.

Otherwise you basically have no other options than to do an apprenticeship or a trade school after middle school.


> Otherwise you basically have no other options than to do an apprenticeship or a trade school after middle school.

Which is much better than doing nothing at all, or going for some useless degree in college that will take you to debt.

Not everyone is smart, I am one of those people (pretty dumb), it is fine.


Yes I agree. It's by design, so that only the ~30% best are recommended to visit highschool. It's a much better solution than just forcing everyone through college, even if they are just not meant to be academics.

Germany also has strong protections against international competition and public/private enterprises like Airbus to keep all of those trades-persons busy.

Do that in the US, and we'll just end up with blue collar wage slaves instead of white collar ones.


Another idea, indirectly related, is to simply stop treating all university degrees equally.

The whole reason student loans are so broken right now is because they cannot be dismissed, so lenders are incentivized to lend with reckless abandon. In the worst case scenario the loan converts into a lifetime rent on an individual that automatically adjusts for inflation. On the other hand, the idea behind creating special rules for student loans is easy to see. By removing any risk in lending, that 'reckless abandon in lending' removes any real up front financial barrier to education and investing in your society's education is as good as investing in your society.

The problem here is people are then using this to get degrees that are more recreational than productive. In high school kids are taught that the key to a good life is to get a college degree. And so many people, who are otherwise unmotivated or unambitious, simply choose easy and interesting degrees. The 'soft' degrees absolutely have a purpose, but a person coming from no means choosing to major in a soft degree is not going to meaningfully change their expected earnings. All they're going to do is remain a person of no means who is now also deep in debt that can never be dismissed.

So the idea is to maintain the current system, but restrict lending just to degrees that are statistically likely to 'substantially' effect a student's expected earnings. When you remove the illusion of 'any degree is fine' you start to bring the connection between education and earnings back to reality. And you also push students towards a path of greater capability which is not only good for themselves, but also for the nation as a whole.


In my view, this idea runs the danger of creating a planned economy, with characteristic boom-bust cycles and scams.

The choice of which degrees to fund has to be made on either past data or some sort of current fad. The list of preferred degrees will of course create competition to get into those programs, but it may also encourage colleges to create watered-down or even fake disciplines that can absorb more students.

Hypothetical example: Assuming that computer science is on the "hot list," a low-tier college creates a fluff degree in Computer Technology Studies, that gains access to loan money but leads to marginal employment prospects.

Closer to home, the K-12 schools in my locale have a new program that creates career tracks at the high school level. The first track that has become available is health care. Granted, it sounds like a good idea, what can possibly go wrong?


Measurements could be organic and self adjusting. In other words schools are required to accurately assess the average earnings, including nonearners, of each and every degree. Degrees above some rate, adjusted for location, qualify for funding - others do not. It could be on a scale rather than binary. Too many health care workers, funding for more pursuing it is completely organically reduced.

Another cool feature is that this further aligns the motivation of schools (who greatly benefit from 'reckless lending') and students. Reckless lending is only possible when the degrees being pursued are provably valuable.


There still has to be a lag. When investment is a reaction to growth, and growth is a reaction to investment, you've got practically the perfect recipe for cyclic behavior.

Also, you can't just switch on college majors by switching on funding. The pipeline for some fields is years, for instance arguably for math intensive fields, or some performing arts such as playing the bassoon.

Here are the majors you can study. I hope you got interested in math 10 years ago, or learned to play the bassoon.


>a planned economy, with characteristic boom-bust cycles and scams.

You can cut the word "planned". Evidence shows that this is a natural part of economies with pretty well understood reasons related to the credit cycle.


"...with characteristic boom-bust cycles and scams." 2008 called, I told them you're available.

I think there may be value in society providing some kind of fusion of these two things at universities. University has become a sort of coming of age ritual for young people, when they can manage to go. Craftsmanship and trades skills are certainly solid ways to support yourself, especially when paired with a decent, democratic union, but I cant help but feel that theres something about a college experience that is hugely beneficial to people. Even just the interpersonal relations you experience at university are deeply influential.

Maybe we could have universities run more traditionally trade school type programs as well as liberal arts, stem, art, and music curriculums? That way the philosophy students have the opportunity to take a class in engine repair and the students in the electrician's school can likewise take a class in Computer Aided Design or Astronomy Lab.


Trade school is a great thing for the right number of motivated and capable students.

The problem is that the market can only take so many plumbers, electricians and tin-knockers before their pay falls off a cliff. I expect that this would occur long before the wage gap is actually closed. Moreover many trades are still unionized and resistant to new entrants.

I think that schools should focus more on getting the basics right. Most of us here on HN have enjoyed a priviledged journey through good to elite schooling. The sad reality is that in large swathes of the country high school education has become a shit-show with reprecussions that will last decades.

While it is good to continue to offer votech programs, I think that schools should just make literacy a priority. If you think that's 'aiming low' you haven't seen what goes on in schools today.


One of my sisters and I both attended trade school and were quickly happily employed.

My other sister went for a psychology major and has since worked service jobs.

I went to a small trade school for "Application Development" circa 2005 that has since gone under.

They really got an undeserved bad rap, like a lot of for profit schools lately. I genuinely feel I received a quality education readying me for working in the industry. I had what I would consider some of the best educators of my life and lots of one on one time with them.

I know a handful of my classmates didn't really take it very seriously and the army was paying for them to be there, but honestly it's lead me into a career I enjoy and allowed me to earn more than I ever imagined.


This seems rather odd to me. The article hammers on about manufacturing jobs while it has been reported that manufacturing ethos in other countries is better than the USA making it a really bad choice to manufacture there. It costs more, and you get less.

At the same time, this seems to be suggesting that anyone could be doing a trade school type of education instead of college, while to me it seems that is is the lower entry into any form of education. If college equals trade school, then college in the USA needs to up it's game.

Learning a trade is only useful up to a point. As others have posted, there is no point in having 100 million machinists all being very capable of re-manufacturing tower crane gearboxes. Even a million would not make any sense. There is also a limit to what you can do with your time. While you don't need to be a millionaire to be happy, the limit to what you can earn is comparatively low when you are working at the practical side of things vs. what steering/planning/administrating and up can earn.

This does not mean that trade school is by definition 'stupid' and if you don't go to college or university (or is that the same in the USA?) you are therefore not smart, but it does limit your capabilities, at least in terms of growth. Now, if you are comfortable with a trade, if it gets you what you want, there would be no point in going to college. At the same time, if college is too hard, and learning beyond basic literacy and mathematics is not an option, you might be stuck at trade level.

One of the bigger problems with 'trade' or 'labour' type of skill is that it often is very limited in abstracted transferrable knowlegde. What if the way some thing are done are replaced. Say you are very good at cleaning chimneys, that's great, but nobody needs your skills. Or what if you are very good at shining shoes. Or driving horse carriages. Or digging holes and putting down outhouses. This is the same for most of the current trade type of work, it is only useful as long as people need you, and when they don't you can't really go do something else because you don't have the theory behind what you were doing to re-implement it somewhere else.


There's no point in having 100million "business" majors either.

I believe that nowadays - at least in developed countries - you can have a stable income way above average as a tradesman. The shortage of reliable people in these areas is unbelieavable. As an anecdote I knew a self-employed poolboy that before crisis was earning more than most managers.

According my experience (I used to help my father during work peaks) I think that we arrived here because ALL talent is nowadays directed to academia. To complicate the situation this is not easily undone, once people get used to be intellectually challenged they see trades as a terribly boring job. And don't forget the stigma..


Sure, but manager works sitting in front of a computer making couple of phone calls per day sipping coffee. Poolboy scrubs dried shit off the pool tiles in hot sun.

People go to college because they dream of getting paid for sitting on their asses. Manual labour is for proles!


Actually, I think a lot of managers are stuck making fast food and working retail and can very easily mean doing a lot of physical work. This is particularly true if you decided to go into business management instead of business administration. Lots of those jobs are retail.

As is often the case, the answer is built into how the question is framed:

If we frame the question as, 'what is the most efficient way to train people with directly salable skills', then college is inefficient and probably not the best solution.

But if the question is, 'how do we best prepare people for life, including critical thinking and knowledge about the world, and to improve our society', college blows away any trade school. Four years spent studying the leading thinkers, thinking, and critical approaches in a diverse array of fields, tutored by leading experts, is an incredible way to sharpen your mind, knowledge, and critical thought. Also, as most in IT realize, learning specific skills in IT is far less valuable over the long run than learning theory which then can be applied even as technology changes. Consider the liberal arts as the 'theory' of other fields.

Many people on one hand bemoan the political situation, the ignorance, and the inability to discern propaganda from fact; while on the other hand they dismiss liberal arts as useless. The latter has developed, almost precisely, as the solution to the former. Society doesn't just work; we need to advance it, which requires understanding the world, its problems and their solutions. These are very hard problems, and learning Java or physics won't solve them.


> Four years spent studying the leading thinkers, thinking, and critical approaches in a diverse array of fields, tutored by leading experts, is an incredible way to sharpen your mind, knowledge, and critical thought.

It is. How many people actually get that when they go to college?

(More than get it in trade school, sure. But if that's the promise of college, I'm not sure that college delivers all that well...)


The problem is that most people are not actually that smart to profit from that. It just lowers the level if everybody basically HAS to go through college.

Using collegiate critical thinking skills, I wonder: What is that argument based on? Are 'smarts' really an important factor? Maybe it's just work, or opportunity, or preparation, or a million other things.

I tend to think that anyone who wants to do it can do it; they only have to work hard enough.


> Researchers are investigating how the United States can become more competitive in the manufacturing industry in the age of artificial intelligence.

> Manufacturing employment has fallen in both countries, yet in Germany, manufacturing's value added has stayed around 22 percent in the last 20 years.

So Germany has done well even before the age of AI. But are they well prepared for the AI disruption?

Because currently the article seems to be relying on past data from Germany to predict a future solution.


Germany has seen many revolutions, each of which was declared the demise of labor in manufacturing. AI is just the latest panic. Germany does well because Germany believes in the value of people. Unlike American companies, German companies are not bent on divesting themselves of employees. They see AI as a tool to leverage their workforce, not a reason to scrub people off their books. From that perspective AI is not a falling-sky moment.

It's a bizarre premise, because US productivity has outpaced both the EU and Germany over the last 25 years.

In 1995-1996, US and German GDP per capita were almost equal, at $30,000 to $31,000. Today the US is about 40% higher.

US manufacturing has grown substantially over that time. The vast gains in productivity are precisely the cause of the employment plunge in manufacturing. Real manufacturing output is up 78% since 1991.

Germany has maintained its outsized manufacturing export base in part through high degrees of protectionism and riding an artificially cheap currency (cheap for Germany, not for Spain, Portugal, Italy or Greece), to the detriment of Eurozone rivals.


Productivity is not the end all measure for the society. Suppose the Moser productive society would be made out of robots working 24/7 at high efficiency. Is that superior to a society where "inefficient" research happens?

Likewise GDP (even PPP) does not matter if it is distributed highly unequally. You get a handful of people with huge economic power, that's it.

Albeit in the case of Germany you're somewhat right (protectionism mostly designed to force manufacturing to happen locally), US productivity has not brought improved living standards where it should have.


It should be pretty obvious to anyone who has ever been to college that the model there isn't exactly one of "efficiency." My first two years were a good time, but if you're a 45-year-old man trying to get skilled as quickly as possible to put food on the table, taking three credits of Shakespeare just seems silly (and I absolutely adore Shakespeare). Not to mention the fact that the notion that you should decide what you want to do for the rest of your life when you're 18 and have never worked or experienced a job market just seems completely insane to me.

The fact of the matter is we're going to need widespread adult re-education, and the current four-years-at-18 model is woefully inadequate for the future that we can all see coming. In fact, the future that's here. Why can't I be prepared for a job in 6 months or one year? Can I take just the part of a college education that helps me be skilled?

IMO the blue collar jobs of the future will be many of the white collar jobs of today. I actually include "coding" in that. Relatively simple programming is something most people can learn to do relatively quickly, provides immediate value, and has rising demand (even the code bootcamps flooding the market still, somehow, leave huge gaps).

My company, Lambda School, (shameless plug, I suppose - YC S17 https://lambdaschool.com) is trying to solve some tiny portion of that by providing a live, online, skills-based education and job placement program that's completely free until you get a job. Soon it will be available entirely after hours. We've literally seen students go from applying at McDonalds to six-figure job offers; not because we're the best teachers in the world, but because they were already smart enough to become that person, they'd just never been given that opportunity, and for very practical reasons four years of college and expensive student loans were out of the question.

But we're still relatively expensive, still at the higher-skill-level-but-more-difficult end, and we can only cover a tiny portion of the market. In the next 10 years I hope there will be a booming industry of college alternatives that can get people placed, so long as they're not crushed by licensing and regulation (neither of which I think are a bad thing in proper amounts).

If you can move people from unemployed or minimum wage to regular living wage, the value created in that movement is enough that you can take a piece and everyone is way better off, and the cost of doing so is orders of magnitude less than college costs now. I really think we're going to enter a golden age of educational innovation, because the current system is broken enough folks are looking elsewhere. I would love to see someone do that at a serious kind of scale for high-paying trades: plumbing, welding, etc.


Well, the 4 year degree at 18 may give you a framework to hang the rest of your learning on - the learning that you're going to have to continue to do throughout your career. The problem is, as you say, that it's too inefficient (and therefore expensive).

Something like Lambda schools may well be the answer - if you can scale it. (You say you can only cover a tiny portion of the market. What scaling problems do you face?)

What I think is really needed, long term, is something like an accredited institution that acts like a clearing house. You want a BS in CS? You need to cover at least this much material. Among the classes will be, say, advanced algorithms. For advanced algorithms, we recognize any one of this set of online classes as valid. That way, with the clearinghouse, you can get a degree that the wider world will recognize, purely online, from a variety of sources.


We can scale really well, but education is an enormous market. 5m people begin college each year.

It's annoying when this is discussed, because people assume all there are only three skilled trades; plumber, electrician, or machinist of some kind. Machine Drafting, for example, was absolutely decimated by the rise of cad/cam, as was graphic design with the rise of desktop publishing and decline of print due to the web. We also have hairdressing, which is ok but shows that many trades are not open to women, nor can many areas not support a decent amount of tradespeople.

I went to a vocational high school myself, and many people wound up going to college instead, as maybe half the trades didn't have much of a future. And keep in mind, there were a LOT of tradespeople thrown out of work in the 90s in my area due to military budget cuts, too; many skilled tradesmen tend to piggyback on defense or government spending, which is not sustainable.


Trade apprenticeship + cultivated curiosity in tech = exactly what hold industries need.

Unfortunately, old industries tend toward new "talent" + degree in something cool sounding in hopes of disruptive "yahtzee". they, or at least mine, largely ignore the ones who know the business rules/needs the most in gavor of who "should know the future best". Oops.


What’s “new” of today is the legacy codebases of tomorrow!

Um, where are the statistics showing that wages in the trades are rising? Everything I have seen indicates that wages in the trades are stagnant which implies that they don't need any more people.

Dumping a whole bunch of people into a system already at close to optimum employment will not benefit workers.


They are rising all across the country because there is a big shortage, and it's only going to get worse. Boomers are retiring faster than they are being replaced.

Optimum employment? When someone wants to get a project built in Portland Oregon the wait time this past year was about 3 months until you were lucky enough to land a contractor. Contractors can't find enough skilled help so everything takes longer.


> Contractors can't find enough skilled help so everything takes longer.

No, contractors can't find enough CHEAP skilled help.

If there is an actual shortage, wages will rise sufficiently to pull people into the field or cause people to move around to fill the holes.

The fact that these slots are not being filled says that they aren't paying enough NOT that there is a shortage.


The BLS data that I've looked at between 2010 (https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/home.htm) and 2016 (https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/home.htm) seems to show a median pay rise of roughly 10% over that time period. (I only sampled a few trades -- carpentry, electrician, and plumbing -- to get that figure.)

This is honestly less of a wage increase than, say, computer programming, over that time period (see BLS data, 2010 https://web.archive.org/web/20120401201347/https://www.bls.g... vs 2016 https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/...).

But it is certainly better than, say, the modest 9% average increase in wages for cashiers and retail workers (2010 -- https://web.archive.org/web/20120409173908/http://www.bls.go... vs 2016 -- https://www.bls.gov/ooh/sales/home.htm).

(Pity the poor modeling occupation, pay has actually decreased 33% during this time period).

Generally speaking, I still see a fair bit of "college premium" in the BLS data -- I would think it would be incorrect to interpret the headline advice overly broadly. However, I do think it's true that not all college degrees are equal, and that some vocational degrees might work out better as ROI goes.

"Trade school degrees" is also quite a broad term. For some reason, the construction trades are emphasized on HN when this topic comes up, but it's worth pointing out that "trade school degrees" also include occupations like some medical careers (nursing, dental hygiene, technicians), police and fire services, paralegals, and plenty of other career paths with fairly bright prospects as of now. The BLS shows growth rate in plumbing to be faster than average, but the same goes for RNs and paralegals.


The real question is how can we reduce the cost of education (or training) while simultaneously better aligning training with the most valuable careers.

Trade schools are much cheaper than college. In addition, we don’t have enough trained craftsmen.


In my view, demand for trained craftsmen goes up and down with economic cycles, and is at risk of job loss due to automation.

There is a shortage of trades workers, and it's only going to get worse because the bulk of the workers are currently older and are retiring much, much faster than they are being replaced. We are just at the beginning of a crises level shortage. Labor prices will continue to rise and this will be absorbed by everyone.

In a supposed American model this means there should be more competition, right? And the companies will be happy to pay those increased wages to US workers?

(I'm being facetious devil advocate here.)


:) They are having to pay higher wages. The wealthy in bigger cities are able to absorb these higher costs. It has a much bigger toll on the middle class in smaller cities because they have the same shortages, but less money to pay the increased costs.

There won't be more competition in the short term because still, only 3% of graduating high school students are even considering a career in the trades. It's going to take quite a while for the ship to turn around.


If people are going to make more money, where does the demand come from? Or is this about American manufacturers gaining market share from/in other countries?

I don't know much about macroeconomics, so maybe this is a silly question.


There are five electricians in town, they each make $40/hour. They have a hard time finding qualified apprentices.

After education, there are 7 electricians. The same 5 electricians still make $40/hour, but the two new electricians make $25/hour. Turns out there's a previously unserved market for a cheaper and less experienced electrician.


Or... there wasn't much of an unserved market, and all seven electricians make $30/hr.

Sure.

(I'm not sure about the specifics of whether everyone's wages go down or the two new electrician's can't find work, but for the purposes of an anecdote it doesn't matter.)

But in the bigger picture this will be a feedback signal to the next class of electricians and they will decide whether to stick with electrician school or look for some other demand gap to fill.


Exactly this. There is a lot of unmet demand in trade labor in even "low rent" places like Las Vegas.

I don't know why you're getting downvoted.

There's a lot of demand for the blue collar equivalent of CRUD apps that isn't met because there are no "cheap" blue collar professionals around.

A lot of people would be willing to pay a plumber to fix their sink, an electrician to replace a light fixture with a ceiling fan or a welder to build hand railings if there were more options for those services that fell between "licensed, insured and too expensive for you" and "questionable quality, affordable prices and nowhere to be found it it breaks"


I suspect I got downvoted because I called Vegas "low rent" which was interpreted as a criticism.

That said, its really hard to find reliable trades people there. Plumbers, electricians, carpenters, Etc. My typical experience is that if I manage to find one, after a short while they are over booked with demand. And Vegas has a fairly low cost of living (low rents and house prices) so it would seem that folks who are getting all the work they can handle are doing well.


It's true. I have a room in my house that has no electricity. I need a new junction box and wiring, maybe $200 job. However, my house is 60 years old and anyone who touches it wants to bring it up to code, a $8000 job. I'm not bringing the entire home up to code for this one thing, it's insane. I would gladly pay someone to just replace what needs replacing to the safe but 60 years ago standard, instead I have a dark room.

In a theoretical sense... I guess. In a practical sense with real-life electricians, not so much.

Unlike college, becoming an apprentice electrician isn't terribly costly or time consuming. People climb that mountain all the time on their own dime. The problem is that they run back down once they see the view.

Electrical work is hard, stressful, and sometimes dangerous. Jam a bunch of innocent kids through trade school instead of college, and we'll probably still have a shortage of electricians.


You still have to train those "kids", trade school should not just be books, but at least 50% practical work.

The master electrician's compensation for training the apprentice is the lower wage of the apprentice.

Most MEs I know bill everything out between $90 and $130 per hour during normal business hours. Apprentice is usually getting around $35 per hour. Apprentice has to work for years to become a master.


If people make more money they will be able to demand more since they can buy more things. There's not much to it.

If you mean demand for labor, that's an entirely different beast.


A financial gap of any kind comes from unfair advantages in a vastly complex system. How could something like that be solved by attending another kind of school. Imo these are two totally independent things.

A different kind of school can leave you prepared to exploit a different kind of gap. If that gap is the one that is currently widening, then being positioned to exploit it can be a wise choice, in two ways.

First, it can be wise for you. There's a lot of money to be made in filling that gap.

Second, though, it can be wise for society. That gap is growing because there aren't enough people going into that area to keep up with demand. That is, society needs more people doing that. It can help society function to have people meet that need.


That sounds reasonable. But is a gap of capital really exploitable without capital?

Skills are a kind of capital.

So, a bit like the "General and Vocational College" we have here in Québec, Canada. Three-year technical programs for students who wish to pursue a skilled trade at a modest price. The price per semester is a mere $132 and you even have access to scholarships & financial aid. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CEGEP

Relevant TL;DR summary:

> Note: Working papers have not been peer-reviewed or been subject to review by the NBER Board of Directors that accompanies official NBER publications.


It's the other way around - a college education should be at least as useful as trade school - i.e. decent employment shouldn't be a luxury
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