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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – It takes a lot to get 700 high school students to stop talking. Telling them they could have a job paying close to $30 an hour is one way to do it.

It’s been well-documented the US is facing a skilled labor shortage. In North Alabama, the local chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors is working to change that, by changing perceptions about these fields.  On Tuesday, Vice President of Membership and Workforce Development Wade Thompson led a presentation to the sophomore and junior classes at Buckhorn High School.

The students learned the average age of the skilled American worker is now 59. By 2016, there could be a shortage of 4,000,000 tradespeople. Not only is there opportunity, the jobs are often high-paying. A high school graduate who joins an apprenticeship program or attends a two-year technical college can easily out-earn counterparts with a four-year degree.

During an apprenticeship program, an employee works on the job, while receiving an education in his or her craft. While the employee must pay for the classroom instruction, about $1,200 for the year-long program, he or she also receives a paycheck from the job. Some employers even offer incentives for good grades.

In North Alabama, craft training is administered by the North Alabama Craft Training Foundation. Classes meet once a week for 36 weeks beginning in September. Registration for the 2014-15 year is September 2. For more information, visit the Craft Training section of the North Alabama Builders and Contractors website.