Universities across the country are seeing reduced enrollment because of job insecurity, student debt and false promises from four-year degree programs. However, the alternative to colleges, trade schools and the like are not seeing secure jobs after students’ training because of the economic climate surrounding the skilled labor force.
Moving into a second week, the UAW (United Auto Workers) strike against the “big three” auto manufacturers in Detroit, MI reflects the problems within the skilled labor force. The strike comes from a slurry of events showing hourly workers walking out on their jobs over the past year, including the writer’s strike in California and the UPS strike earlier this summer.
These strikes do not instill hope in the minds of young people soon to enter the workforce themselves. The strikes are coming off the back of a devastating pandemic as the economy is attempting to heal itself — we do not need this now.
As a student who graduated from high school in 2020, I was disillusioned to say the least about what the pandemic’s impact would be on the job market. While I am happily enrolled in a four-year degree program and planning on attending law school next fall, nobody should feel pressured to attend a university because of economic uncertainty. Moreover, according to the Wall Street Journal, a large portion of the nation does not feel a four-year degree is worth the investment.
Trade school enrollment is increasing since the pandemic, as more young people and former college students choose to become mechanics, carpenters, chefs, etc. In Colorado Springs specifically, the trend is continuing as local trade schools like PTEC are upgrading their facilities to accommodate higher enrollment rates from middle schoolers to college-level students. The enrollment rates for skilled labor jobs are increasing in and around the city.
However, the outlets that lead to these high paying jobs, like trade schools, are not being advocated for students and young people who feel pressured to go to college. College has become an end-all-be-all stereotype for career success, even when the data points to the opposite. Student debt levels have increased and high paying jobs right out of college are more competitive, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic.
In trade schools like PTEC, students are given the chance to enter the workforce virtually debt free and get a paycheck while attending classes. The only caveat is that skilled labor jobs like in the auto manufacturing industry are getting bombarded by strikes on the behalf of unions, who are supposed to advocate for workers.
It is predicted that in Michigan the UAW strike will not only halt auto manufacturing including the burgeoning EV industry, but virtually destroy small companies who make parts. GM’s CEO Mary Barra said, “For every GM job, there’s six others in the economy that depend on us running.”
How can students in local trade schools look at these strikes on the national level and feel they will have secure jobs on the local level? Unions keep striking and the president advocates for time on the picket line, instead of responsibly negotiating realistic demands with company leaders for higher wages and more career opportunities.
Go get the job you want, whether it requires a degree or not. Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo, UCCS.
Graphic by Kira Thorne.