Now is a great time to consider a career in the skilled trades

Since 1934, Lower Columbia College has proudly served students and local industries by providing high quality workforce education and training programs. Nearly 87 years later, LCC remains committed to preparing future professionals for rewarding and high-demand careers as we begin to shift toward post-pandemic recovery. We recognize that now is a time, both nationally and locally, where many Americans are now rethinking the type of work that they want to do.

53% say they’d switch to an entirely new industry if they could retrain.

Source: Pulse of the American Workforce Survey: Special Report, May 2021

It has been recognized across our region and across the country that there is a serious lack in individuals with the skills -plumbers, pipefitters, welders, diesel and automotive technicians, electricians - to support our country’s and nation’s infrastructure.

The skills trades shortage has been slowly growing for the past several years, but has really reared its head over the past twelve months. The majority of the discrepancy between supply and demand is due to waves of baby boomers retiring, with not enough skilled tradespeople entering the fields at a fast enough rate to replace them. Another prevalent issue is a generalized lack of interest in the skilled trades from younger generations, having access to a much broader employment market than ever before.

This means that there are often not enough workers in the various trades, but that it also takes much longer to find someone suitable to hire, and employers often must settle for someone with little to no experience.

Source: Select Staff, private employment agency, May 2021

As individuals seek options and opportunities for the future, LCC’s Workforce Education team is available both virtually and in-person to offer strong career and academic support services.

Shorter and more affordable pathways

Training programs for the skilled trades are shorter and more affordable allowing individuals to begin a career faster and graduate with less accumulated debt. Traditional academic programs are four years while on average trade programs are two years, allowing students to begin a career in half the time. There are many apprenticeship programs that offer on-the-job training that give individuals the opportunity to get paid while learning their trade.

Trade organizations are eager to bring people on board. Our country’s foundation relies on the trades to keep our infrastructure sound. From plumbers and pipefitters to diesel mechanics to automotive technicians, these essential jobs keep the country moving.

Skilled workers are in demand

With more manufacturing jobs coming to the country, there are more opportunities for tradespeople than ever. For an entire generation the educational emphasis has been placed on traditional academic programs. With the baby boomer generation retiring there is high demand for tradespeople to fill these open trades positions. There are more job openings than there are skilled tradespeople to fill them.

The Baby Boom generation makes up most of the workers in the trade and those experienced journeymen are looking to retire. Incoming workers just starting their careers are getting less cross-over time together with those experts in the field and we are losing decades of knowledge. Employers and educators see the skills gap spreading further and further apart.

During the pandemic, the work of people in the trades has not slowed and now many journeymen are opting to retire early. There is a huge demand for workers in the trades and many students entering these fields receive job offers before they finish their programs.

However, LCC and its industry partners encourage students to continue their path and achieve the level of skill that will make them marketable for years to come.

Excellent pay

Traditionally the perception was that high paying jobs were only found for the more traditional four-year university graduate. That hasn’t been true for several years, and the country’s infrastructure is experiencing the effects.  Skilled tradespeople often make equivalent to or more than their academic counterparts. Most trade jobs not only offer high take home pay but great benefit and retirement packages. These benefits are not always found in other careers.

Due to the high demand of these careers, the wages earned in them have always been substantial. Individuals that continue to seek excellence in their trade path and develop their craft find more opportunities to gain a higher income by learning more applications/processes. They become in-demand workers and move into mentor roles for students coming into their chosen field behind them.

Travel the world

Trade jobs are not limited to local businesses. They offer opportunities across the country and worldwide. Trade jobs are universal as the skills in any trade will be the same no matter where the job takes an individual, and that makes relocation easy.

Job security

Skilled trades workers were not impacted by the pandemic in lost worked time, as many other jobs were. Many manufacturing jobs continued and even increased in these times to supply the world mid-pandemic. Even before the world was paused, trades workers have always been in high demand. Workers can levy their skills for better wages, better benefits, better jobs, and more stability. Having certifications gives individuals the security to travel and know that they will have the skills needed to gain employment anywhere they go.

Pride of job

Many people work jobs that are unsatisfying, and just go through the day-to-day motions. Working in the trades offers excitement, camaraderie among coworkers and the true satisfaction of a job well done. Nothing compares to the pride an individual feels as completing a job successfully in the trades.

Inclusive work

Unlike the image often associated with skilled trades, the industries we know today are all-inclusive. The gender/race/ability of workers is no longer a barrier. Most shops employ people from all demographics, genders, races, religions, abilities, and skill sets. Everyone has a position they can succeed in, and employers are happy to help people find rewarding careers.

Addressing the need

In addition to regularly reviewing existing programs, hearing from industry in program advisory boards, and updating program inventory in the vocational trades, LCC is beginning a new project in collaboration with industry partners and area high schools. The pilot project begins to build a stronger pipeline of future employees by offering a course in the trades this fall in partnership with Kelso High School.

Foundational Trades Occupations

High School juniors and seniors from multiple districts are eligible, and will attend this high school Career and Technical Education class on the LCC campus. Students will gain real-world/hands-on experience and develop knowledge and skill sets to prepare for careers in industrial trades. Students will gain skills in machining, manufacturing, and welding and have an opportunity to earn college credit toward a certificate or degree in one of LCC’s Industrial Technology programs including Advanced Manufacturing, Multicraft Trades (apprenticeship preparation), Machine Trades, or Welding. To learn more about this course, please contact Kelso High School (360) 501-1839.

Learn more

LCC has many opportunities available for individuals who are preparing to enter the workforce. Please visit us at to learn more. A new career path is on the horizon.