Millennials in the trades

By Doyle James, President, Mr. Rooter Plumbing

According to recent population projections released by the U.S. Census Bureau, millennials – or Generation Y – have officially eclipsed the baby boomer generation as the largest, most diverse age group to exist in the U.S. 

Studies show that millennials, America’s youth born between 1980 and 2000, numbered approximately 75.3 million in 2015, surpassing the approximate 74.9 million of their immediate predecessors, a generation classified by the boom in U.S. births following World War II. 

From a business standpoint, millennials continue to make their mark on the professional world as they rise to leadership and executive roles. They bring fresh perspective and an eager approach. It’s time to start thinking about how these individuals are beginning to reshape the values left behind by aging baby boomers. 

We need to ask ourselves, “How can we harness these values and empower millennials to make choices that will set them, and our society as a whole, up for a positive future?” 

Despite being introduced to post-graduation reality in the middle of a recession, millennials are entering the U.S. workforce at a rapid pace. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) projects that approximately 1.8 million students will graduate at the bachelor’s degree level in 2016. A significant portion of the millennial population will be looking for jobs while the U.S. experiences one of the lowest rates of unemployment since 2009. 

There is a need to fill a large number of jobs in the U.S. Despite the high demand for them, specifically in the trade segment, young graduates seem to be stuck on the sidelines of the labor force. They are finding it challenging to find jobs in their desired field fresh out of college. 

According to recent studies, the U.S. may have as many as 3.5 million trade jobs, such as plumbing and carpentry, available over the next decade with only 2 million workers to fill them. The opportunity is there. It’s just a matter of educating millennials about trade jobs and breaking the stigma that they’re not as glamorous and profitable as white-collar jobs. 

That’s not to say that the labor involved with trade jobs is not difficult. It is very hands-on and physically demanding. But, if these millennials commit to building their skill set and perfecting their craft through apprenticeships and training, it will open the door to more entrepreneurial and leadership roles within the trade industry, with the opportunity to bring in a lucrative salary.  

Skilled workers are always in high demand, but blue-collar jobs are just not top of mind for the millennial generation. Trade jobs are expected to increase faster than the national average of all jobs over the next 10 years. But, there are strides to be made when it comes to making these opportunities known to millennials. As baby boomers start to retire from the trade workforce, the demand for young people to fill them will only continue to rise. 

At Mr. Rooter Plumbing, we’re optimistic that the millennial generation will see the benefits of trade jobs and seek out more nontraditional career opportunities. We’ve already seen franchisee legacies taking over their parents’ businesses, like Adam Glovan, son of one of our franchise consultants, Don Glovan.

“There’s no question that the millennial generation is well-educated and very skilled,” said Don Glovan, who is also a former Mr. Rooter Plumbing franchisee. “With a growing number of baby boomers retiring from blue-collar jobs, we are seeing more and more students forgo traditional opportunities to pursue these vocational careers, my son included. I truly believe they can become successful in these roles and quickly rise to the upper ranks of the industry if we make them aware of the successful path they could take within the trades.”

Don opened a Mr. Rooter Plumbing franchise with his wife, Sue, more than a decade ago in North Carolina. Don and Sue’s oldest son, Adam, joined the business in 2002, at the age of 22. Just 12 years later, he became owner and operator along with his brother and wife. Today, they serve over 8,000 customers across Henderson and Buncombe counties.

Through his experience in the trades, Adam has come to believe that there’s a shift occurring in the way millennials view business. 

“Our generation greatly favors balance in life. We work toward creating a happy and sustainable life not built on work and money alone,” Adams said. “The trades give us the opportunity to work hard and stay true to our principles along the way.”

Now, as part owner and operator of the Mr. Rooter Plumbing in Asheville, North Carolina, Adam strives to create a workplace environment that values employees and encourages them to value themselves and their relationships. He finds ways to impact the communities they serve while building confident and trusted relationships with customers. 

“It is our hope that we have done our part to better the condition of every person touched by our business,” Adam added.

Aside from having a strong work-life balance and incredible growth opportunities, trade jobs often offer comparable if not better salaries than what an average college graduate earns, plus no student loan debt. The career path for aspiring labor workers provide excellent schooling and apprenticeships that usually last the same duration as a four-year college curriculum. As millennials face higher student loan debt and university tuition than ever before, we should help encourage this generation to consider a career in the trades.  

There is a misconceived notion amongst millennials when it comes to a career in the trades, and we’re trying to change that. Master plumbers, for example, can make upwards of six figures in one year in the profession. Vocational jobs can offer a different experience made up of varied work, interaction with clients and stimulating challenges. 

Since the blue-collar field is not as glamorized as white-collar jobs, this path is often overlooked by millennials. 

As trade industry leaders, we need to educate them on the lifelong skills and sustainable lifestyles that trade jobs can actually provide. The future of the trade segment is very bright and with a new haul of millennials breaking into the force, the opportunities will only become greater.

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