Apr 30, 2024 - News

More Ohioans embracing skilled trades

Illustration of pipes against a background of tile in an upward trend like and a hand with a pipe wrench

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Interest in training for Ohio's skilled trades is steadily growing, state labor data shows.

Why it matters: Industries like plumbing, welding and construction need more workers as boomers retire, and younger Ohioans are stepping up to fill the gaps.

The big picture: Enrollment in vocational programs and applications for trade jobs are ticking up as younger people look to start their careers without the sky-high cost of a four-year college degree.

  • Enrollment in vocational programs jumped 16% last year, according to the National Student Clearinghouse.

What they're saying: "We're finally seeing a more than subtle change within our society," says Robb Sommerfeld, co-founder of the National Center for Craftsmanship, which provides vocational training at high schools.

  • "More and more students and their parents see alternatives."

Zoom in: Apprentices in Ohio are up 69% since 2014 and up 2% over the past year, according to ApprenticeOhio, the arm of Ohio's Department of Jobs and Family Services that connects companies to workers.

  • As of yesterday, Ohio had 22,676 active apprentices, ranking the state third nationally and first in the Midwest.

By the numbers: Most of these (60%) are in construction and another 19% are in electrical work.

  • Well over 100 other occupations are represented, ranging from car repair and firefighting to elevator installation, video editing and soil/plant science.
  • The average hourly wage is $31.98 for those who graduated from apprenticeship programs so far in 2024.

Locally, Columbus City Schools offers technical programs at two of its facilities, while Columbus State Community College features various degree, certification and apprenticeship programs like carpentry, plumbing and welding.

  • Franklin County's Building Futures program connects low-income residents with skilled trade instruction.

Reality check: The labor shortage for technical jobs isn't over.

  • The construction industry alone faces a gap of half a million workers.
  • Many more plumbers, electricians and other skilled workers have retired over the past few years than have been trained to take their places.

The bottom line: Help is on the way, but worker shortages in the trades won't be solved overnight.

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