A bright financial future for millennials?

Skilled trades may be an answer when it comes to opportunities and obstacles for millennials.

Are millennials, those born in the early 1980s to 2000, ready to take on their financial future? A couple prerequisite goals include the need to obtain a skill or degree and the desire to compete for jobs. There are a few hurdles to overcome, but the future looks bright if they can see the light.

One hurdle is getting that first job, i.e., getting your foot in the door, so to speak. In the past, jobs where a high school diploma could get you in the door and allow you to gain skills, explore opportunities and earn some income were plentiful. Youth could cut their teeth in the work world at these jobs or use the income to help pay for college, a technical institution, a certificate or maybe a career dream. These jobs were a stepping stone on a career path, but not anymore.

As the baby boomers begin heading into retirement and the millennials begin entering the workforce, it seems odd that these dissimilar age groups may be competing for jobs. Many boomers who are retiring are still healthy enough to work, but are on a fixed income. They may be looking to supplement their income in the form of unskilled employment. Entry level jobs that were typically held by young adults just entering into the workforce are now being pursued by older employees. Older employees with work experience and presumably a good work ethic are looking to earn some extra cash so that they may live comfortably. That leaves less oppotunites for youth entering the workforce.

An opportunity may lie in the field of “skilled” trades. A recent article on National Public Radio (NPR) pointed out that some millennials may be wise to consider careers in the “skilled” trades. There are several benefits. For one, the boomers will be leaving many of the skilled trades, and although some of those jobs will be replaced by automation and technology, there will still be a great demand for skilled labor in the coming decades. Second, a trade school or two-year associate degree will be far less expensive than a degree from a four-year institution. Therefore, the student will be less likely to rack up high student loans. Compare a $40,000 per year loan versus a $2,400 per year loan. Third, these “skilled” jobs are paying quite well. Starting wages can range from $40,000 to $70,000 a year and in some high demand fields, like welding, you can earn $100,000 a year.

Further, millennials can take advantage of the skilled trade career path while still in high school. Many school districts have vocational schools and technical campuses that offer classes, degrees and college credits for high school students interested in high demand fields. Such a route would give the student a trade they could fall back on to earn money for further schooling or training in some other career field they may become interested in or to use for personal goals.

Michigan 4-H Youth Development offers programs in Youth Money Management and Youth Entrepreneurship that can help millennials gain skills and explore career paths on a journey to a bright future. For more information on these programs and gaining experiences, contact your local 4-H representative or visit the Michigan 4-H website or Michigan State University Extension.

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