Justin Mwandjalulu, 20 years old, build stuff
These days, as a carpenter’s apprentice, he works with other construction workers to install drywall on a house. But he said he likes concrete best.
“At the end of the day, you will know you put your all into it. It is the result of your hard work,” he said.
As a child, Mwanjarul dreamed of becoming a carpenter or an electrician. And now he’s making that dream a reality. However, it also makes him an exception to the rule. Generation Z (often referred to as those born between 1997 and 2012) are on track to become the most educated generation, but they are traditionally hands-on in skilled trades and tech industries. Fewer young people are choosing to work.
Gen Z’s interest in commerce and skilled labor is declining
Data from Handshake, an online recruitment platform shared by NPR, shows that in 2022, the number of young people seeking technical jobs such as plumbers, building contractors and electrical workers will be 49% lower than in 2020.
Handshake researchers tracked changes in the number of applications and openings for technical jobs over the past two years.
Posts for positions such as Automotive Technician, Equipment Installer, and Respiratory Therapist each received about 10 applications in 2020, but each post received about 5 applications in 2022. .
According to Christine Cruzvergara, the company’s chief educational strategy officer, Handshake’s typical rate is about 19 applications per job.
The demand for technical positions continues to grow, but the number of students interested in applying for the positions is not.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce warns there will be a “massive” shortage of skilled workers by 2023.
“For a long time our society didn’t speak favorably of craftsmen,” Cruzvergara said. “Instead, we encourage all students to go to college, attend a four-year college, graduate, and get a white-collar job.”
One path does not fit all
In the second year of a four-year carpentry apprenticeship, Mwandjalulu of Iowa City, Iowa found school difficult.
As a freshman, he and his family immigrated to the United States from Benin, Africa.
“Man, it was hard,” he said. The twin brothers, who are now studying to work in banks, were good, but Mwandjalulu said he struggled with writing and English.
“I’m not the type who likes to be in the same place all day and deal with paperwork and such,” he said.
By the time he graduated from high school, Mwanjarul said he was depressed because he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. Many of his older friends, who had gone to college and graduated, were having trouble finding jobs for him.
“I didn’t want to be like them,” he said. he said.
About 45 million Americans owe about $1.3 trillion in student loans, according to the Department of Education.
But Mwanjarul, who earns nearly $24 an hour as a carpenter, said he still struggles to convince the friends he keeps in touch on Facebook and Snapchat to go his own way.
“There aren’t many people, especially immigrants, who think outside of school,” he said.
I’m off topic
Paul Iversen, a labor educator at the University of Iowa Labor Center, wants to change that.
Iversen, who helps run the pre-apprenticeship program, says one reason for the low level of participation in craft jobs among Gen Z is that jobs used to be passed down through families.
“It used to be word of mouth,” says Iversen. “But the need for carpenters, plumbers, plumbers and electricians cannot be met by people’s families today.”
That reality is poignant for farmer John Boyd Jr.
Boyd, 57, owns a 300-acre farm in Virginia where he grows soybeans, corn, and wheat and raises cattle as he did three generations ago. But now, none of his three children want to inherit the house when he retires.
“Everyone on my farm is over 50,” said Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association. “We need young people with energy, hard work and innovation.”
28-year-old Michael Coleman is one of them. In 2015 he received a scholarship from the NBFA to study Animal Science at the University of Nebraska.
Coleman is now an animal health technician for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and dreams of owning his own farm one day.
According to the 2017 U.S. Agriculture Census, the average age of U.S. farmers is 57.5, up from 54.9 in 2007. Coleman said he has met other farmers his age.
“We stick together,” he said.
there is plenty of demand
But Coleman said more young people are showing interest in agribusiness and other tech industries, especially since the pandemic.
“It’s a lot cheaper to trade and make a lot of money, especially with things like student loans,” Coleman said. “Most young people are not being taught the tricks,” he said.
Still, aggressive recruitment is needed to fill trade and technical positions, said Iversen, who frequents high schools around Iowa City and works with school counselors to place students in pre-apprenticeship programs.
Especially now that the federal government is pouring billions into projects to upgrade roads and transportation systems across the country, there is an urgency to fill the vacancies, Iversen said.
“We have to hire people to do these things or our bridges will fall apart,” said Iversen.