Trades and Apprenticeships as Proven Career Pathways

Last updated: Jun 27, 2023

In my last few blog entries I’ve offered some perspectives regarding routes into the workforce in hopes of sustaining a long, successful career. Access through a four-year college degree and certificate-based programming have already been explored. As a society, though, it’s rather important we understand there are multiple avenues to professional achievement. The notion that traditional higher education is the only way to fulfillment is untrue. I’ll finish up the series by presenting a case for trades and their corresponding apprenticeship models.


Here’s the thing: the industrial trades aren’t going anywhere, and they can lead to well-paying, fulfilling careers. They are changing due to automation but remain a necessary collective sector. Trades will always need highly-skilled personnel. The speculation proclaiming the eventual demise of manual industry due to AI and technology is overly pessimistic. However, our goal should be to equip the workforce beyond low-skill jobs. Those are the positions squarely in the crosshairs of emerging mechanization.


This brings us to apprenticeships which provide individuals with on-the-job experience and vocational learning—all while earning a paycheck. Employers win, too, as recruitment processes simplify, employees train in accordance to company standards, and retention rates increase. For those inclined, trades offer a viable passage to entrepreneurship. Some of my friends took advantage of industrial apprenticeships straight out of high school and, after 10-15 years, set out on their own to begin their own flourishing businesses.


And the service sector has taken notice too. Corporations such as Google, IBM, and Accenture have implemented effective apprenticeship models. Firms that once demanded college degrees for employment no longer do so because the overwhelming majority of the labor pool is trainable. There is a skills gap in today’s workforce but not an ability gap. Collectively, we need to update our training focus. Companies must write better job descriptions and redefine employment qualifications in order to meet the evolving demands of the modern-day economy.


I get the distinct impression that many of my fellow Generation X members were unnecessarily steered away from trades because of societal expectations during our teenage years. I’m hopeful that today’s young adults will be more open to the variety of entry points to the workforce, seeking education and training methods that are a good match for their long-term vocational trajectory. Education and training throughout the life cycle is necessary. The real issue is how and where learning occurs based on one’s aptitude and career goals.