Fewer students turning to trades or skilled labor jobs

MADISON COUNTY Ala. -- Fewer and fewer young people are  learning trades or going into the skilled labor workforce. Construction companies say they can't find new employees. Manufacturing firms say they can't find skilled workers.

"I've always had college in mind, that I wanted to go to college," said 17-year-old Matt Dailey, a Huntsville High School student.

"I think my parents kind of expect me to go to college, and get the kind of jobs that they have," said 19-year-old Will Freeman.

"I've always had college in mind too. It's not been an option to do something else," said 18-year-old Kyle Jansen, a Huntsville High School student.

While college is the right path for many high school students, employers say it is not the only one. They say there are trades to learn and a skilled labor market in need of new workers, like construction.

"A lot of our superintendents and foreman are retiring. And there's not a lot of workforce coming into the industry," said Stephanie O'Melia, the HR and Safety Director for Dunn Building Company.

Over 6,000 high school students attended the college and career fair, most lining up at the tables of the colleges and universities.

"I feel like going to college is the safest thing to do. Get your degree, it's something to lean on," said 17-year-old Terrell Coleman, a Huntsville High School student.

Many of the kids say they think college is the best way to get a lucrative career. But employers say they can offer a path to a good future, without the college debt.

"Really and truly it's a lot about the money. They're really interested in whenever I tell them as a superintendent you can make $100,000 a year," said O'Melia.

Matthew Tola told students about jobs in HVAC, plumbing, and electrical work.

"Make money a lot quicker than having to go through that four-year traditional college," said Tola, with H.C. Blake Company.

They say more students are considering learning a trade, and that change starts with the guidance counselors, letting kids know all of the options.

"It's a good way to go. You go to trade school then get out and get a fast job," said 16-year-old Stephen Cagle, a Junior at Huntsville High School.

The Huntsville/Madison County Chamber debuted their new career website. It lists local career opportunities and internships, as well as videos from real people on the job, and online training.