The Value of Skilled Manufacturing Trades

Skilled trade workers do a tremendous amount to keep our economy thriving — from electricians to plumbers to machinists, skilled trades may comprise some of our most underappreciated lines of employment. 

Below, you’ll find an overview of why skilled manufacturing trades still have such a high value. You’ll also find some information on what you can to get started with one. Keep reading to learn more.

Why is college the norm?

Many people growing up are told that they need to earn a four-year college degree to become successful. That piece of supposed wisdom comes from parents and school counselors alike. 

A recent poll found that 73% of the high school students who were surveyed were encouraged to pursue a four-year degree. Compare that to just 32% of respondents who reported trade school educations being promoted as a potential opportunity.

This process of socialization is one of the main reasons why college has become the norm for young adults who’ve graduated from high school. It’s promoted as the best way to prepare for future success. But that may not be true for many students.


College in the United States is incredibly expensive. The average annual cost of a college degree at a four-year school is just over $25,000. That’s not even including the costs of living expenses.

Most students don’t have this type of money and need to take out loans to finance their education. But this can saddle them with debt that can follow them for years. Under current laws, student loan debt can’t even be wiped away through bankruptcy.


Despite the tremendous cost of a college degree, the benefits of pursuing one are not entirely clear. The average salary for someone who’s completing an apprenticeship in a skilled trade is $35,000. That’s the same average salary as someone who has an associate’s degree in liberal arts

Similarly, the average salary of a person with a bachelor’s degree is $50,000. Some research suggests that the average salary of a skilled trade worker is between $60,000 and $65,000 annually.

Of course, different people will have different outcomes. But these statistics at least seem to indicate that going to college isn’t an inherently better way to prepare yourself for success than pursuing a skilled trade.

Could pursuing a skilled trade career be better than college?

If you’re interested in pursuing a skilled trade, then doing so could absolutely be better for you than going to college. That’s true for a few main reasons.


Bachelor’s degrees take about four years to complete on average. That’s four years of earning potential that you’ve eliminated from your career. Most technical programs don’t take nearly this long to complete.

The average trade school program takes between 8 months and 2 years to complete. That’s a significant reduction in the amount of time that you have to spend out of the workforce. Essentially, this means that pursuing a skilled trade can enable you to start making money and working towards your future faster than college.

It’s worth noting that some apprenticeships can last as long as four years. But they give you the chance to learn while you earn, which is something that a college education doesn’t typically offer.


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects rapid growth for several types of skilled trade jobs over the next 10 years. For example, the demand for wind turbine technicians is expected to increase by 61%  between now and 2029. 

Over the same time frame, the demand for solar photovoltaic installers is projected to increase by 51% and the demand for rotary drill operators will increase by 27%. That translates to thousands of new skilled trade jobs that will be available in just the next few years.

Why skilled trade workers are highly valued

There’s a huge demand for skilled trade workers in the U.S. economy. That’s been true historically and it will continue being true well into the future. Here are a few reasons for that.


Vehicles, machinery, and the everyday items that we use aren’t perfect. They need to be maintained and repaired from time to time in order to ensure that we can continue using them.

Skilled trade workers are the people who do this. We rely on their expertise to keep the things that we love working properly. Unless someone invents machinery that magically never breaks down, there will always be a need for skilled workers who can maintain and repair it.


The population of the planet is continuing to grow. As it does, there’s a corresponding rise in the need for new homes, commercial buildings, and other structures. Someone needs to possess the skills required to build these things. Once again, this role falls to the skilled trade worker.

Even if the population boom does begin to die off, construction projects will always need to be completed. Old buildings need to be updated, repairs need to be made, and someone who knows how to do these things will always have an opportunity to find gainful employment.


Manufacturing is the lifeblood of the economy. It’s what builds medical equipment, plane parts, defense parts, and so much more. Machinists are an integral part of all of this. They’re the ones who operate, maintain and repair the machines that make the parts that power our lives.

Even with the oncoming wave of automation in the manufacturing process, machinists will always be needed. This will continue to be true for as long as we use machines to create the products that we use.


Vehicles are an essential component of the economy. They transport everything from life-saving medicine to everyday products that we use around the home.

That’s why there will always be a demand for skilled trade workers who specialize in vehicles. We’ll always need someone who can repair them when they malfunction, create new vehicle parts, and assemble vehicles on the factory line with specialized tools.


The conveniences of modern life rely heavily on the electrical and plumbing networks that run through our homes. These don’t spring to life magically. They’re created, maintained, and repaired by skilled trade workers.

The demand for electricians, plumbers, and related workers will never go away. There will always be a need for workers who have the skills needed to ensure that the utilities that we’ve come to rely on keep functioning like they’re supposed to.

Pursuing a skilled trade in the manufacturing industry could be a good idea

If you’ve decided that college isn’t for you, then consider preparing yourself for a career as a skilled trade worker in the manufacturing industry. There are several excellent opportunities for you to consider in this space.


A machinist is someone who operates, maintains, and repairs machines. They’re relied on throughout the manufacturing process and are an integral part of ensuring that it runs smoothly.


A manufacturing production technician is responsible for a variety of tasks in the manufacturing process. They set up equipment, test it to make sure that it’s working, and monitor processes to make sure they’re working optimally.

The median annual wage for a manufacturing production technician is $62,990 and there’s expected to be 8,880 job openings for this position in the coming years.


Manufacturing engineers identify problems and inefficiencies in the manufacturing process and develop solutions to overcome them. Only 47% of manufacturing engineers have a bachelor’s degree. So you may be able to qualify for the role without one.

The career outlook for a manufacturing engineer is fantastic. The median annual wage for this position is $99,040 and there are expected to be 11,700 manufacturing engineer job openings in the near future.

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