College Loans or $34 an Hour…Your Choice

I read a story in the WSJ about how energy companies are working hard to convince high schoolers to forgo college for a trade education. I’m passing this along to my son, it’s good advice.

“In many parts of the economy, there are too many workers, rather than too few. Since January, the U.S. has lost 463,000 jobs. Residential construction and manufacturers that rely primarily on the U.S. market have been hit especially hard.

But the energy industry is hard up for workers who, among other things, can make precision welds, fit pipes for pipelines and oil refineries, and understand the complex electrical wiring in modern power plants. Though the weak housing market has idled many workers who did similar jobs for home builders, their skills often aren’t sharp enough to make the cut.

Dusty Henry, a 25-year-old electrician in Portland, Ore., who belongs to IBEW Local 48, says he earns $34 an hour working on renewable-energy projects while some of his friends who went to college are having a hard time finding jobs.

“I chose the path that I wanted to take…and learned as much as I could for that one thing,” Mr. Henry said. “You go to college to kind of figure out what you want to do, but if you don’t figure it out, you go out with debt and you still don’t know.”

In Indiana, where BP PLC is spending $3.8 billion to expand its Whiting refinery, demand for carpenters, electricians, pipe fitters and several other trades is expected to outstrip supply by 16% or more in the current quarter, according to construction-industry consulting and investment banking firm FMI Corp.”