Increasing Number of Schools Nationwide Embrace Skilled Trades Curriculum

The number of U.S. secondary schools embracing trade skills curriculums is growing rapidly, according to the Home Builders Institute (HBI). The organization’s chief executive says middle and high schools are reexamining the need to expose more of their students to the trades.

“For decades, technical education took a backseat to the college-bound track in our schools. That kept millions of young people from considering the lucrative post-secondary opportunities in the trades,” said Ed Brady, HBI president and CEO. “The trend is definitely turning.”

HBI reports that it has experienced more than a 300 percent increase in the number of schools licensing its trade skills curriculum since the start of the pandemic. HBI programs are now in 240 schools in 37 states, compared with 79 schools in 14 states in 2019. The numbers include schools funded by HBI’s “School to Skills” grant initiative. The program provides HBI’s curriculum free to schools and students. Since launching in fall 2019, Schools to Skills grants have funded more than $1.7 million in trade programs across 33 states in 159 schools, including 40 schools new to the program for 2022.

“The economics of the pandemic have changed the perception of careers in construction,” said Brady. “Educators, parents and students themselves once again are seeing how valuable trade skills can be for young people entering the workforce today.”

A report released by HBI this week shows that half of payroll workers in construction earn more than $49,070 annually and the top 25 percent make at least $75,820. In comparison, the U.S. median wage is $45,760, while the top quartile makes at least $68,590.

The expansion of training programs comes at a critical time for the residential building industry, which is starved for skilled workers. According to HBI’s Spring 2022 Construction Labor Market Report, the construction industry needs 740,000 new skilled tradespeople each year for the next three years, totaling 2.2 million workers, to keep up with housing demands.

“The skilled construction labor shortage has reached crisis levels, in no small part because as a nation for too long we have given trade skills training the short shrift. We urgently need to introduce younger students to the trades and get them excited about construction,” said Brady. “HBI’s curriculum is aligned with STEM and offers a great alternative for students who can’t or don’t want to pursue four-year college after graduation.”

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