New Survey Findings: Student Perceptions on Skilled Trades Education

Mary Kelly

The skilled trades industry offers lucrative and meaningful careers, however there is a growing skilled trades labor shortage in the U.S. that is severely impacting the economy and a number of high school seniors across the country who are unaware of their options post-high school graduation.

According to a 2018 Deloitte study, the skilled trades gap could leave an estimated 2.4 million skilled trade positions unfilled between 2018 and 2028, which could have a potential economic impact of $2.5 trillion in the U.S.

Why is it so difficult to fill these accessible jobs with highly-trained professionals? Lack of information. Society continues to emphasize the only way to secure a successful career is a traditional four-year college degree. Many high schools across the country encourage their students and provide the resources to attend a four-year university, while technical education is minimally highlighted. However, skilled trades education and careers provide financial security, accessibility and prompt return on investment.  

As CEO of StrataTech, my staff and I work year-round to debunk misconceptions, highlight industry demand for skilled professionals and share the types of programs that can lead to rewarding, valuable, life-time careers.  


Here’s what the survey found

This past year, StrataTech Education Group commissioned a survey to explore the attitudes and beliefs around trade education and skilled trade careers among young Americans and parents. The survey respondents included half high school students and half parents of high school students – and here’s what we discovered:

  • Current high school students and parents alike are interested in trade education, but they feel more information is needed for them to make an informed assessment and decision.
    • Only 32 percent of respondents reported their high school promotes trade school education as a potential path following graduation.
  • 51 percent of the students have considered attending a trade school but said there were barriers to making an informed decision. Reported barriers included:
    • Not knowing the options available
    • Total expense
    • Lack of confidence in ability to perform a skilled trade
    • Pressure from the community to attend a 4-year university
  • Parents are supportive of their child pursuing a skilled trades career.
    • 93 percent of parent responses indicated they view trade schools as a credible career path for their child and one they would support their child pursing through post-secondary education.
  • Current high school students and parents agreed that they view trade schools just as credible as traditional college.
  • Students and their parents prioritize a career that will earn them stability and a high quality of life.


Given the survey results, it’s troubling to see the skills gap continue to increase considering the interest and support proven in the data. In fact, the shortage of workers is causing skilled trades wages to surge, while the financial return from a bachelor's degree is not as certain, and tuition prices and student loan debt continues to increase. Nevertheless, current high school students are still encouraged to take a traditional path towards higher education and obtain a bachelor’s degree, while high-paid jobs requiring shorter and less expensive training, like many of the skilled trades, are still going unfilled or unnoticed. This affects student careers paths and presents a real threat to the economy.

Skilled trades offer ample opportunities for those who wish to build a thriving career. On average, technical programs require a few months of classroom and lab time, and students are typically placed in the field immediately upon graduation. Salaries for skilled trade workers are outpacing the national average, especially among the current landscape where college graduates are not landing high-paying jobs right out of school. Experienced trade workers are earning up to six figures, making the growth potential for welders, HVAC technicians and electricians tremendous.  


Not a one-size-fits-all

Education is not one-size-fits-all. We understand that. We are striving to make a difference across secondary education institutions by working together to implement skilled trades awareness programs and begin to promote skilled trades education in a positive light early on. It’s important for students to know the variety of their options. This way they can make informed decisions based on their desire – not society pressure – and follow an educational path for a career that best suits their lifestyle, talents, areas of interest and overall goals.

For more information about StrataTech Education Group, its schools and the current state of the skilled trades industry, visit


About the author

Mary Kelly joined StrataTech Education Group in 2010 as the Chief Operating Officer. She was promoted to President of the organization a few months later and in 2011, Ms. Kelly was promoted to President and Chief Executive Officer.

Mary has over twenty years’ experience in the postsecondary industry, with a blend of experience in both the for-profit (Bryant & Stratton Business College and Lincoln Educational Services) and non-profit (New School University and Hudson Valley Community College) education sectors. She also served as the Chief Academic Officer for the American Red Cross of Massachusetts Bay.

Mary holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, a Master of Arts in English Education, and a Master of Science in Educational Policy and Administration from the University at Albany.


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