Tech School CEO: Gen Z Going After Trade Jobs AI Won’t Replace

Jen Krausz
By Jen Krausz
April 29, 2024US News
Tech School CEO: Gen Z Going After Trade Jobs AI Won’t Replace
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during morning trading in New York on April 29, 2024. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Lincoln Tech CEO Scott Shaw has noticed that Gen Z students and workers are turning to blue collar and trade jobs for security as college costs continue to rise and AI threatens to replace many white collar jobs in the coming years.

“These jobs are here to stay,” Lincoln Tech CEO Scott Shaw told Fox Business’s Stuart Varney. “Since COVID, people are kind of catching the wave and understanding the need for trades.”

A January 2024 National Student Clearinghouse report showed that vocational community college enrollment is up 16 percent since 2018, backing up Mr. Shaw’s contentions.

Not only have college costs risen so much that most students can’t afford them without hefty student loans, but COVID-19 showed students that a college degree was no hedge against low-grade virtual classes and government shutdowns that could lead to economic downturns and layoffs.

Mr. Shaw said Lincoln sees students decide out of high school to pursue a trade instead of a four-year college degree, but the school also sees returning students who got the college degree and found it worthless.

“We have a lot of career changers, people that have tried college, and it just wasn’t right for them or people that now want to follow their passion,” he said.

“About 50 percent [of students] are 21 and younger, but the average age of our students is 25,” he added.

A newer Clearinghouse report released in April showed fewer students completing four-year degrees in 2022–2023, marking at least a two-year trend.

The same report showed continuing growth in those earning first-time certificates for mechanical, repair, production, and construction trades.

The concern that AI could take over many white collar jobs is a real one. Goldman Sachs released a study in 2023 suggesting AI could force 12 million employees to switch careers, and that AI could impact 300 million jobs worldwide.

Coding and other technology jobs will be hard hit; ChatGPT can already code well enough to get an entry level job, according to Google, and IBM cited AI as the reason for some of its job cuts last year.

Media jobs including advertising, journalism, technical writing, and content creation are also expected to be reduced or eliminated by AI in the coming years.

Paralegals and legal assistants, translators, data analysts, financial advisors, accountants, and even teachers could be replaced by AI or have their roles greatly reduced, according to Business Insider.

In contrast, AI is much less likely to be able to fix your pipes or replace your wiring. It won’t be able to cut and color your hair in the latest style or clean your teeth either.

According to Ramsey Solutions host Ken Coleman, another big motivator for Gen Z to pursue trade jobs is the potential to become entrepreneurs.

“We’re seeing that 75 percent of Gen Z is saying they are interested in being an entrepreneur. They want to work for themselves,” he told Fox Business’s Brian Brenberg, adding that “trades offer a quicker, cheaper path to being able to work for themselves, create jobs for other people, and plug into—which is the real backbone of our economy—small business.”

Mr. Coleman discourages students from taking on debt to fund their higher education goals, whether they be at a four-year college or a trade school.

The average cost of college tuition in the United States ranges from $27,940 per year for in-state public schools to $57,570 per year for private colleges.

In contrast, trade schools range from $5,000 to $15,000 per year on average, and often require only one to two years to complete a program.

In addition to paying as little as one-tenth of the tuition cost, trade school graduates may have an easier time getting a job than those with costly four-year degrees.

While white collar jobs are seeing stagnation and layoffs in some areas, trade jobs are seeing double-digit increases in demand.

If Gen Z can help to fill the demand for trade workers, it will be a win-win for everyone.

ntd newsletter icon
Sign up for NTD Daily
What you need to know, summarized in one email.
Stay informed with accurate news you can trust.
By registering for the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy.