Americans overwhelmingly support skilled trades education in high school, but schools face major barriers in providing the courses that give students a path toward these essential, high demand careers, according to new research from Harbor Freight Tools for Schools, which includes a public opinion poll and a study of skilled trades programs in high schools nationwide.
The study and poll together comprise a comprehensive look at American high school skilled trades education — courses that emphasize building and repair, such as construction, electrical, automotive, heating, air conditioning and plumbing, and that lead to middle-class jobs that often do not require a four-year college degree.
“These studies demonstrate that Americans want skilled trades education, but far too often students don’t have access to skilled trades classes in their high schools,” says Eric Smidt, founder of Harbor Freight Tools and The Smidt Foundation. “When we teach trades in high school, we give students a head start on the road to fulfilling, good-paying careers that our country desperately needs.”
The recent poll found:
• 79 percent of parents believe their child would be more prepared for a career if they had the chance to study a trade in high school,
• 72 percent of students say high schools could do a better job of giving them chances to learn real-world skills,
• At least 7 in 10 voters, parents and students want employers to do more to support skilled trades education,
• 8 in 10 voters support more funding for high school skilled trades education, and
• 80 percent of voters described the trades as “important”.
Separately, the study concluded that a lingering stigma against the trades discourages student participation, contrasting the results of the opinion poll. The seemingly paradoxical result demonstrates that educators haven’t yet seen positive public opinions for the trades translate into more resources and respect for programs, said Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools.