With over crowded Universities, still only 30% of the total population with any form of a College Degree, and the high pay for tradesmen these days, I am amazed that so few people are going into the trades. To make matters worse, the high school drop out rate is as much as 30% in many areas now (and even much higher in particular areas). It's almost like people either go to college, or they don't bother trying to get a good start on a career at all.
We don't all need college degrees to have a lucrative career. In fact, the wrong college degree can stifle a career. There's a lot of money to be made in the trades. Good examples are Electricians and Plumbers. Plumbers are already making as much money per year near the start of their careers as many people with well positioned degrees from a University. (Some degrees will command nothing more than $30K/year for someone just out of college, which is much less than a Journeyman Plumber who spent the same period in an Apprentice program.)
I got my start in the trades as a Drafter. I was working my first professional job when I was 18 after graduating Trade School (I had been working since I was 13). I didn't get paid a whole lot at the start, but even as a kid, I was aware of the need to have a marketable skill set (though I would've never used those exact words as a teenager).
There is a tremendous and growing skills gap between available jobs and those available to fill them. A recent article by Rick Badie discusses this problem. The article points to a machine shop with positions to fill, a stack of resumes, but no one qualified to take the available positions. This problem is happening all over the country. It's even a little frustrating. There are availble jobs. By some estimates, openings are literally in the millions that aren't getting filled!
mikeroweWorks was started by Mike Rowe, who is also trying to raise awareness of the opportunities in the trades, but also working to improve respect for the job that these tradesmen perform.