After decades of pushing bachelor’s degrees, U.S. needs more tradespeople

At a steel factory dwarfed by the adjacent Auto Club Speedway, Fernando Esparza is working toward his next promotion.

Esparza is a 46-year-old mechanic for Evolution Fresh, a subsidiary of Starbucks that makes juices and smoothies. He’s taking a class in industrial computing taught by a community college at a local manufacturing plant in the hope it will bump up his wages.

It’s a pretty safe bet. The skills being taught here are in high demand. That’s in part because so much effort has been put into encouraging high school graduates to go to college for academic degrees rather than for training in industrial and other trades that many fields like his face worker shortages.

Read moreAfter decades of pushing bachelor’s degrees, U.S. needs more tradespeople

Training in skilled trades making comeback in Iowa schools

Zachary Hageman moves through the almost-done luxury apartments near downtown Des Moines and points to the studs and wiring, the drywall and cabinets.

Zach Hageman, 18, recently graduated from North High School and is part of a Summer job site cleanup through Hubble Construction and DMPS central campus. He is learning the trades while working on projects like Cityville on Wednesday, July 26, 2017 in Des Moines.
(Photo: Brian Powers/The Register)

The 18-year-old is part of the cleanup crew, an entry-level position that’s part of a new school program designed to give hands-on experience to high school students and recent graduates.

Once unsure of his future, the recent North High School graduate now plans to become an electrician. It’s an in-demand job. In Iowa, experienced electricians average $30 an hour, or more than $62,000 a year, according to the Iowa Wage Report 2016.

Read moreTraining in skilled trades making comeback in Iowa schools