Gen Z Returning to Trade and Vocational Schools

Just when it appeared that skilled trades and vocational schools appeared to be on a permanent decline in the United States, members of Generation Z are beginning to embrace such professions in what may mark the beginning of a comeback.

According to Axios, the amount of enrollments in vocational programs has been gradually increasing as members of Gen Z, also known as “Zoomers,” are turning to trade schools as a cheaper alternative to the more expensive four-year universities.

“We’re finally seeing a more than subtle change within our society,” said Robb Sommerfeld, co-founder of the National Center for Craftsmanship. “More and more students and their parents see alternatives.”

While enrollments at four-year colleges and community colleges have decreased, enrollment in vocational programs increased by 16% in 2023. In conjunction with this trend, the median age of trade workers, including carpenters and HVAC maintenance workers, has fallen from the mid-40s range to the early 40s and high 30s.

Nevertheless, other blue-collar jobs still face major shortages. The construction industry still suffers from a deficit of one million workers, while numerous plumbers, electricians, and other craftsmen have retired in recent years without any successors. The rise in younger Americans seeking such jobs could work to fill this gap in the coming years.

While Millennials flocked to four-year universities in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, Zoomers are now rejecting such colleges in favor of trade schools. A poll from New America shows that 54% of Zoomers consider a high school degree to be enough to get a stable and well-paying job. Another poll by Gallup shows that 46% of parents prefer that their children seek alternatives to four-year universities, including trade schools.

One major factor influencing this shift is the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), which threatens many white-collar jobs and other low-skilled office jobs. Blue-collar jobs such as construction, plumbing, and electricity work, by contrast, are safe against the rise of AI.

“That is the pivotal moment when people are really trying to figure out what they want to do, and if you can show them a promising future in that time, you can really make a difference,” said Nick Largura, CEO of Superior Construction, in regards to the increase of Zoomers in his company’s workforce. He added that with construction, unlike white-collar work that could soon be replaced with AI, “you get to see a physical product at the end of the day as a result of your work.”

Get the news corporate media won't tell you.

Get caught up on today's must read stores!

By submitting your information, you agree to receive exclusive AG+ content, including special promotions, and agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms. By providing your phone number and checking the box to opt in, you are consenting to receive recurring SMS/MMS messages, including automated texts, to that number from my short code. Msg & data rates may apply. Reply HELP for help, STOP to end. SMS opt-in will not be sold, rented, or shared.

About Eric Lendrum

Eric Lendrum graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he was the Secretary of the College Republicans and the founding chairman of the school’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter. He has interned for Young America’s Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, and the White House, and has worked for numerous campaigns including the 2018 re-election of Congressman Devin Nunes (CA-22). He is currently a co-host of The Right Take podcast.

Photo: Close-up of plumber repairing sink. Male worker using tool while fixing appliance in bathroom. He is working on metallic equipment at home.