NPR: Economists Say Millennials Should Consider Careers In Trades

Career College Central Summary:

  • As the economy continues to recover, economists are seeing stark differences between people with high school and college degrees. The unemployment rate is nearly twice as high for Americans with a high school diploma as for those with a four-year college degree or more.
  • But economists say that doesn't mean everybody needs a four-year degree. In fact, millions of good-paying jobs are opening up in the trades. And some pay better than what the average college graduate makes.
  • When 18-year-old Haley Hughes graduated from high school this past summer, she had good grades; she was on the honor roll every year. So she applied to a bunch of four-year colleges and got accepted to every one of them. But she says, "I wasn't excited about it really, I guess."
  • So instead of going that route, Hughes is taking a different path: an apprenticeship through the big New England power utility company NStar. In one of her recent classes at an NStar facility outside Boston, the classroom work was actually more exciting than some people might like.
  • Lara Allison is one of the instructors. On a recent morning, she was teaching Hughes and the other utility worker apprentices how to protect themselves if something bad happens while they're down under a manhole cover in an underground electrical substation.
  • "An arc flash — that's the thing we worry the most about," Allison says.
  • An arc flash is a highly energized bolt of electricity, an explosion of electricity in a sense, that jumps from an energy source to another spot that's grounded or that the energy can flow into. Allison tells the students that if they wear the wrong clothing and they get hit by an arc flash, their clothes can catch on fire and get seared into their skin. "It's really, really hot," she says.
  • On her apprenticeship, Hughes already has been down working in those underground substations.

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