Don’t Forget the Trades! Why the Skilled Trades Are a Good Fit For the Next Generation

student using virtual headset for skilled trades training via Interplay Learning platform

Creating a path to success for Gen Z.

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 reality is that approximately half of college graduates end up in jobs that don’t actually require a degree. Combine that with the fact that students have to take on significant debt to get these degrees, it’s no surprise that younger generations are challenging this conventional wisdom. This pivot is creating an opportunity for the skilled trades sector to appeal to a whole new generation.

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

Because of the conventional wisdom above, the skilled trades industry is experiencing significant demand for new talent.

As a result of this shortage, skilled trades workers are in greater demand and can therefore have higher earning potential than ever before. In fact, the median pay for new construction hires rose 5.1% last year to $48,089. In comparison, the starting pay for hires in professional services only went up 2.7% to $39,520.

In addition to this, demand will only continue to grow. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is projected to add 15 million infrastructure jobs in the next decade.

Members of Gen Z are in a prime position to take advantage of this increased demand and earning potential. Their comfort with and interest in technology is an asset and they have the potential to breathe new life into the 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.

It’s no surprise then that Gen Z is increasingly interested in the trades. Recent research shows that 75% of high school and college-age people would be interested in vocational schools that offered paid, on-the-job training.

The demand for new skilled trades technicians is growing, as is Gen Z’s interest in the industry. This means we can provide people with good, stable careers, ensure companies have the highly skilled staff they need, and support the growing infrastructure of our communities by creating better career pathways and training in the skilled trades for today’s youth.

Flexible to Individual Goals & Lifestyle

While so much about our world and the way we work has changed (and continues to change), one thing we’ve seen consistently over the last few years is the younger generation’s desire for more flexible work.

Whereas flexibility may be a relatively new concept in the more hierarchical white-collar world, younger generations will be happy to learn that flexibility is a skilled trades staple.

A career in the skilled trades allows employees 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.

The flexibility of the work and the various potential career paths make the trades a great option for new generations entering the workforce.

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 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, a whopping 83% of tradespeople report being either somewhat or extremely satisfied with their choice of work. Not only that, but 94% of those in the industry say that they would encourage their own family members or kids to pursue similar occupations.

Overall, 22% of all trades people commonly report the meaning and value of their work as the chief source of their happiness.

Clearly, if future workers are looking for an option that will give them purpose and good job satisfaction, the skilled trades should be high on their list.

What’s Holding You Back?

We know that there is a massive skills gap in the trades. We also know that these careers provide good salaries, high job satisfaction, and job security. So what’s preventing schools, nonprofits, the government, and other entities from implementing more skilled trades training?

Training for the trades is an inherently difficult process. Whether you are a dedicated trade school, a K-12 institution, or an organization focused on workforce development, training in the skilled trades requires significant equipment, expertise, and space.

These challenges are particularly difficult for those K12 and workforce development organizations. Without built-in expertise on their teams, figuring out how to implement or enhance a program can be a barrier to doing more in this growing industry.

Fortunately, we live in a time where technology can help! Career readiness in the skilled trades is much more accessible with modern, immersive technology platforms like Interplay Learning.

How Interplay Learning Can Help

Interplay Academy provides an off-the-shelf solution for anyone wanting to implement a skilled trades training program.

Each certificate program includes a simple, out-of-the-box implementation that provides the tools and support for educators and administrators to launch and track a scalable program with ease.

Expert guidance built into the learning content successfully prepares learners for future careers without the need to hire on-staff industry experts or build expensive infrastructure.

In addition to earning an Interplay Learning Job-Ready Certificate, learners enrolled in Interplay Academy’s programs can earn industry-recognized certifications, including NATE Ready-to-Work certification, OSHA 10 or 30 certifications, and EPA 608 certification, enhancing a graduate’s employability.

Learners who need additional assistance choosing a career path can use the programs’ career exploration tool to align their chosen path to their interests and career aspirations.

Finally, when learners complete the program, they can connect with employers through Interplay Learning’s partnership with BlueRecruit, a leading job platform for skilled trades professionals.


Younger generations are looking for financial security, flexibility and career satisfaction. Communities and employers need skilled trades technicians to keep the world running. It’s a match made in heaven.

All that’s left is for schools, communities, and businesses to step up and create effective, powerful career pathways to encourage and support the next generation as they enter the workforce.

With an out-of-the-box solution that provides immersive simulations, built-in expert instruction, and guided learning pathways, Interplay Learning can help. Reach out to start a conversation!