United Group Services

Alternative Paths to Success: The United Way

Every parent wants their children to have the best possible chance for success. In the opinion of many, the path to success is to go to college, complete college, and then land a high-paying job. This supposedly linear path has become ever more complicated, however. For one, this “one-size fits all” solution doesn’t account for the fact that some teens might not shine in a lecture hall. Some teens are more at home on a factory floor, or in a workshop working with their hands. Secondly, a bachelor’s degree is not to be embarked upon lightly. The Federal Reserve announced that the average student loan debt is a whopping $33,000 per student. Add this to the fact that nearly 40% of bachelor’s degree candidates fail to graduate, and you no longer have a surefire recipe for success. Even if you are armed with a bachelor’s degree; many white-collar jobs are being lost to automation, even in skilled fields, thanks to AI and computer learning advancements. This creates a stark contrast between formerly safe white-collar jobs and skilled tradesmen jobs. If your lights go out, a pipe bursts, or you need a house built, who are you going to call?

There are other pathways to success. And in the cases of a lot of teens, the right paths for them. According to Georgetown University researchers, though there were 10 million unemployed people in 2018, 7 million jobs were available for skilled tradespeople. The jobs gap is only set to widen, as a 2019 Lumina Foundation survey shows, “almost half of all skilled tradespeople were over 45, including nearly a quarter over 55”. Our industry has over 178,000 welders between 45-65 years old. This means that there are 178,000 skilled tradesmen approaching retirement age. The American Welding Society predicts that the nation’s workforce will need over 375,000 welders by 2023. There are already businesses struggling to attract welders in our state of Ohio.

The number one way to change the perception of learning a trade is to state the facts. That same Georgetown University study noted that college graduates (from elite universities) with a degree in Liberal Arts only averaged $70,000 in income ten years after graduation. The researchers found that workers in construction and other skilled tradesmen such as welders often outperformed these college graduates in salary. The Federal Reserve estimates that over 30 million jobs don’t require a college degree yet pay $55,000 in annual salary. Why then do many parents and children look down their noses at skilled trades? It is a simple case of perception bias. Ingrained in many Americans is a sense of needing a college degree. As we’ve seen, this isn’t always the case, and in many cases is misguided.

The above information is vital in educating parents and their children on the many pathways to success. Just because one path is cut off, doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways of becoming successful. Skilled tradesmen will always be needed; as we’ve seen, they’re needed even more urgently in our current times. Since 1992, United Group Services has been committed to helping usher in the next generation of welders. This began as an apprenticeship program intent on developing skilled labor and eventually developed into our academy, the Elite Welding Academy, founded in 2007. It should be emphasized that at UGS, where you start isn’t where you finish; with diligence, hard work, and ambition you can go as far as your drive takes you. Our Senior Leadership Team is a great example; many of our executives started in the field and worked their way up to leadership positions. UGS is proud to be a provider of many of these skilled-tradesman jobs and will continue to provide paths to success to those who seek an alternative.