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There is a sad fact in the world of American employment. Organizations interested in investing in the U.S. are finding too few potential workers with the requisite skills.

About 600,000 jobs last year went unfilled in the U.S. due to a lack of skilled labor (Stuart E. Eizenstat & Robert I. Lerman). The skills needed are often that of machinists, welders, robotics programmers, and mechanics who can maintain equipment.

What is the reason for this? I have some ideas. I teach public relations/communication management at Towson University. Far too many of my students want to be event planners, not even PR/communication professionals, much less mechanics or machinists. I believe that impressionable young people have been brainwashed to view working with their hands as beneath their dignity. This is complete BS.

I believe that some people are better suited to working with their hands. And the truth is, we need many more people who can fix things than we need people to plan parties or weddings. Have you tried to hire a “handyman” lately? If so, chances are you were put on a long waiting list. We are rapidly losing our ability to fix and make things, hence the greater need to hire people to do it for us.

There is a real need to prepare people for skilled labor and subsequently, enhanced employment opportunity. Schools used to offer practical, helpful classes like “shop”, courses of instruction in a trade such as carpentry, electricity, or auto mechanics. I believe that such courses should be required for middle and high school students for both boys and girls. No sexism here.

Why require boys and girls to take shop? Because they will learn practical, useful life skills. And many young people will also learn skills that can mean employment opportunity. It just makes good sense for women and men to learn these things.

Employment in manufacturing accounts for 20 percent of jobs in Germany, 16 percent of jobs in Switzerland, but only 10 percent of jobs in the United States (Eizenstat & Lerman). Young men and women who take shop may find that they like the work so much that it constitutes a career option. The statistics prove that employment opportunities abound for such skilled workers.

Shop courses could offer such practical education as basic auto repair and maintenance for young people. An understanding of these concepts can help both men and women to not be ripped off by unscrupulous car repair shops.

Skills that help you learn to repair and build things, like carpentry or basic electricity, would also be useful. And again, career options come with it.

Academic professional/technical college instruction is often augmented by internships. For skilled workers, an expanded system of apprenticeships should be offered to provide hands-on experience. In Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, for example, 55 to 70 percent of all young people enter apprenticeships (Eizenstat & Lerman).

To meet the needs of 21st-century U.S. employment, we owe our young people options for expanded employment opportunity. Becoming a skilled tradesperson is one such option. Working with your hands may just be a viable and interesting option for many.

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Consider for a moment what you plan to do career-wise when you graduate. With that in mind, discuss what you are learning now that best prepares you for the career of which you dream. What else do you think would help to prepare you?

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