Breaking the Skilled Trades Stigma: 3 Values to Attract the Digital Generation

A group of skilled trades workers workign on a piece of wood

The traditional, four-year college experience isn’t for everyone, and neither is a 9 to 5 office job.

Yet, for decades, it’s been conventional wisdom that this is the sole path to stability for generations of young people.

Now, the high prevalence of people crippled by student loan debt and COVID-19 related shifts such as The Great Resignation are challenging this view, creating an opportunity for the skilled trades sector to appeal to students graduating high school or junior college.

The skilled trades offer substantial benefits and perks that align with the goals of many in the next generation. It’s time to own them.


“Skilled trades workers are in greater demand and can therefore have higher earning potential than ever before.”

High Demand = High Value

The pandemic has disrupted all industries and the skilled trades are no exception.

Retiring professionals, changes in the nature of work, and challenges attracting and training new workers during a pandemic deepened an existing talent pipeline problem.

As a result of this shortage, skilled trades workers are in greater demand and can therefore have higher earning potential than ever before. Members of Generation Z are in a prime position to take advantage of this potential without the four-year degree.

Generation Z is also known as the Digital Generation, as members’ (those born between 1997 and 2012) formative years were likely heavily shaped by exposure to the Internet and reliance on technology.

Their comfort with and interest in technology is an asset and they have the potential to breathe new life into our industry.

The Digital Generation is watching 14.8 million Millennials struggle to repay student loan debt. Many are also entering the workforce at a time when millions are leaving their jobs; a trend largely attributed to burnout.

These lessons learned, if taken, may convince the Digital Generation to seek alternative paths to financial success.

There is talent supply to meet the demand, but it starts with stronger promotion of the potential for valuable work and opportunities in skilled trades.

Flexible to Individual Goals & Lifestyle

As The Great Resignation rages on, employers are scrambling to retain and recruit talent, and many are offering greater flexibility as incentive.

Whereas flexibility may be a relatively new concept in the highly hierarchal white-collar world, members of the Digital Generation may be happy to learn that flexibility is a skilled trades staple.

A career in the skilled trades allows members of the Digital Generation more control over their lifestyle and the runway to pursue their passion.

Depending on their interests, a tradesperson can tailor their career so that they enjoy frequent interactions with customers, participate in the hiring and mentoring process or tinker with the latest technologies.

After accumulating the experience, many skilled trade workers go on to establish their own companies. Considering that the majority (62%) harbor entrepreneurial aspirations, members of the Digital Generation may find this concept particularly intriguing.

“22% of all tradespeople commonly report that the meaning and value of their work as the chief source of their happiness.”

Purpose & Impact

The Digital Generation is highly oriented around personal values and a sense of purpose. A recent MetLife survey on employee benefits found that more than half say “work with purpose is a must-have.”

From repairing the heating system in a home doubling as an office and tripling as a classroom, to preparing a small business for opening day, tradespeople help customers in meaningful, tangible ways. It’s a satisfying and rewarding occupation. Just ask a skilled trades worker.

In fact, while 48% of workers were actively job seeking at the beginning of 2021, according to Gallup, the same is not true in skilled trades.

A whopping 83% of tradespeople report being either somewhat or extremely satisfied with their choice of work.

While increased compensation is cited as the primary reason for job satisfaction amongst skilled trades workers in 2020 and 2021, meaning and value in the work was the main factor impacting overall satisfaction.

In fact, 22% of all tradespeople commonly report that the meaning and value of their work as the chief source of their happiness.


The Digital Generation is looking for financial security, flexibility and career satisfaction. You’re looking for engaged, adaptable employees. It’s a match made in heaven, if you can just make the right connection and highlight the benefits.

Want more tips to help a new generation build better careers and lives? Interplay Learning can help. Reach out to start a conversation about your business.