Jen Anesi-Brombach: The tide is starting to turn
I was sitting on the couch with my phone the other day, surfing Facebook and catching up on the news (fun fact: two-thirds of adults get their news from social media, according to Pew Research). I follow a wide variety of news organizations, so there’s always a good mix of current events.
Then one post caught my eye — a PBS article. The headline read: “After decades of pushing bachelor’s degrees, U.S. needs more tradespeople.”
“Well, no s***, Sherlock!” I yelled. (Hubby didn’t even look up from his book — he’s used to me shouting obscenities at my phone.) “Can you believe they’re just now covering this? I’ve been writing about this for years!”
Then I realized, I shouldn’t be frustrated. This is a good thing — the “mainstream” media are finally catching on. Could it be that maybe, just maybe, the tide is starting to turn?
Then, last night, I attended the Detroit Society of Professional Journalists annual dinner where they present awards for excellence in journalism for the previous calendar year. Plumbing & Mechanical was up for an award for an editorial we published a year ago — “Change young minds and career paths.”
The competition was stiff, however, and I was convinced we wouldn’t win. Still, it was an honor just to be nominated.
And then we won.
We won first place for an article judged on both its appearance and its message — in this case, a message that the trades provide legitimate and well-paying careers that can support a family, and that it’s time we start promoting these career paths the way we’ve been promoting four-year degrees.
It turns out people outside the trades are listening.
A shifting mindset
We trade-media folks are well aware of the shortage of skilled workers in the trades. It’s in our faces every day. We get the press releases from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. We research it, write about it, and learn what people are doing to fix it.
Workforce development has been a topic at every conference I’ve been to since coming to PM 18 months ago. It was a topic at the International Roundtable last month in New Orleans, where folks like keynote speaker Eric Remer talked about hiring and what millennials are really looking for in an employer (hint: it has a lot to do with company culture).
It might often feel like we’re preaching to the choir. Of course we all know there’s a workforce shortage in the skilled trades, and of course we know why. But are the people outside this circle — the people we’re trying hardest to reach — even paying attention? I wasn’t really sure before, but the last few days have changed my mind.
People are starting to listen. Opinions and biases are changing. It’s not necessarily happening as quickly as we might like, but it’s happening, especially as the cost of four-year institutions continues to eliminate them as an option for more and more people every year.
So you keep doing what you’re doing, and I’ll keep writing about it. Together, maybe we can keep changing minds and career paths.