New Berlin West students look to the trades as a good alternative

Jay Phelps

Beginning in middle school, New Berlin West’s goal is to prepare students for college and finding the right career. With Academic Career Planning, College Fairs, Job Fairs, Advisory, ACT Prep, ACP, and much more: West’s primary focus is helping you plan for your future, and being successful in doing so.

There is a recession in trade jobs and “skilled labor” as baby boomers are retiring, and high schools are pushing students towards a four-year convention college degree. The expected demand in labor jobs are determined to reach their peak over the next few years, causing many issues.

The issue bounces back to the fact that there aren’t a shortage of people who are capable of doing these jobs; it’s a shortage of people willing to.

Jeff Martin, the Construction 1,2, and 3 teacher at Eisenhower and West, said, “All of the trades are in high demand right now. So many people are retiring from the trades and young people are not taking their place, which just causes a bigger and bigger shortage year after year.”

The high demand for jobs is resulting in a tremendous rise in salaries. Along with good pay, these jobs offer benefits like health care and retirement, job security, and little to no student debt, unless one attends a tech school instead of an apprenticeship.

According to a report by Manufacturing Institute, 3.4 million manufacturing jobs are likely to be needed over the next decade. Of those jobs, it’s projected that two million will go unfilled.

The result in less workers affects the everyday services that citizens require. Martin said, “Can you imagine paying 300 dollars for an oil change because there is a shortage of mechanics, or paying a thousand dollars to fix a leaky sink because there is a shortage of plumbers?”

Martin even mentions the possibility of not having internet anymore because there won’t be enough technicians to keep up with the maintenance on the infrastructure or systems. This would affect our world drastically within our daily lives.

Specifically within West, there has been a rise in students enrolling in CSBL (Career and Service Based Learning) programs that are offered for juniors and seniors. CSBL programs include Youth Apprenticeships, Mentorships, Internships, Internal Internships, and Co-Op.

NBW senior, Jesse Sommer, is one of many enrolled in CSBL. He’s taking Youth Apprenticeship working with Payne and Dolan as a diesel technician. Sommer works with light diesel trucks to diagnose and repair them whenever it’s needed.

“I used to go to WCTC for automotive work but have since left to just get training through my work,” said Sommer. “I chose this path because I couldn’t really see myself going into the college setting and actually getting a degree for anything else, and also I just really enjoy working on cars over anything else.”

Many students, like Sommer, are finding that they are able to get a job doing something that they’ve always had an interest in. Those who are better working with their hands rather than an office job are more likely to enjoy and perform well working in the trades.

Another senior at NBW, Cody Balisteri, is another student taking advantage of the CSBL program. He’s currently enrolled in Youth Apprenticeship and working to be a steamfitter. Through this apprenticeship, Balisteri is getting paid to be trained to become a steamfitter journeyman.

“I knew it paid good and I’m not really the school type, more hands on,” said Balisteri. “Now that I’m almost done with the program, I know I like this trade over the others and I like what I do.”

After graduation and when Balisteri turns 18, he automatically becomes part of a Local 601, a union. Not only is this providing him with job security but he’s also having all of his classes paid for from a “total mechanical.” This set-up is allowing him to be without debt and making money straight out of high school.

Most trade jobs are part of a union. Being part of a labor union ensures a high productivity, lower employee turnover rate. This is a benefit to all for it allows better communication in the workplace through decisions made in a collective thought. In short, the employees get a say in their working conditions and are able to bargain with their employers without receiving lashback.

This type of job security is one of the main attractors to these jobs, besides the money.

“I would just like to share one fact with you from a study done by the electrical unions in the US,” said Martin. “They found that by the time a doctor surpases a master electrician in lifetime earnings, he/she will be 56 years old. Let that sink in.”