With more young people reportedly having a high respect for skilled or trade labor – coupled with surging demand to fill those jobs – one of America’s biggest blue-collar proponents noted these trends are just the start of a "slow, long burn."
"That is encouraging, but this is a long, slow burn," Mike Rowe, host of FOX Business’ "How America Works," said on "The Ingraham Angle" Monday night. "It's going to take a long time to undo the damage we caused when we took shop class out of high schools. It's stigmas, it's stereotypes, it's misperceptions. They're slowly starting to erode, but we just have to keep pushing it."
According to a new survey from Thumbtack, an overwhelming majority – 87% – of skilled trade professionals say they’re happy in their jobs and would choose the same profession again if given the chance.
And 73% of young people included in the survey said they respect skilled trade jobs as a lifelong career. Forty-seven percent are reportedly interested in exploring a skilled trade profession.
Rowe emphasized that it will take time to get positions filled. In 2023, there has been more than 770,000 skilled job postings from nearly 95,000 different employers across the country, according to data from PeopleReady Skilled Trades.
"We've been at it for 15 years. mikeroweWORKS started on Labor Day, 15 years ago," Rowe said of his nonprofit initiative. "We've been basically singing the same song, which is, look, the percentage of people who leave the workforce every year, they're all over 55. And it's for every five who leave, basically, two come in. That's some bad math."
Rowe emphasized that these surveys showing high demand for the industry marks the first sign that "the chickens are coming home to roost."
"We've got acute shortages like we've never seen before," he said. "On the other hand, we are moving the needle and we're starting to see this generation reacting very differently to some of the questions that they've been asked over the years vis-à-vis college versus a skilled trade."
Through his foundation, Rowe has seen firsthand accounts of working men and women finding success and satisfaction in construction, welding, plumbing and other trades. He also expressed his belief that the job demand will stick in the face of technological advancements.
"They're all working in the trades. They have a level of job security now that, frankly, is the envy of a big chunk of the workforce, because, you're not going to A.I.-out a plumber or an HVAC person or an electrician or any of that," Rowe said.