At just 22 years old, Christian Couric is already an experienced professional welder. A specialist in pipeline welding, Couric has worked in paper mills, commercial refrigeration facilities, as well as petrochemical plants in Kentucky, Texas and Louisiana. Currently, he’s in Reno, Nevada, helping to build a biofuel plant that will process the city’s garbage into jet fuel. He says he earns between $35 and $50 an hour, often working 60 to 70 hours a week. Industry magazines say skilled pipeline welders like Couric can clear as much as $5,000 weekly.
Couric doesn’t have a four-year degree or even an associate’s degree. What got him his start were three eight-week classes in welding from Blue Ridge Community College (BRCC) in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, where Couric grew up. It was enough to earn him a welding certificate and his first job at a local fabrication shop. “This is absolutely way more viable than any college degree I could have gotten for sure,” says Couric. “The guidance counselors and career coaches would always say, ‘Go to college, go to college, you have to go to college, you’re not going to amount to anything if you don’t go to college,’ but they were wrong.”
Couric is living proof that short-term, career-focused educational programs—provided they are high-quality courses for in-demand fields—can put workers on track to high-paying jobs. Most of these programs don’t, however, qualify for federal financial aid through the Pell Grant program, putting them out of reach for workers who are low-income or unemployed.
Millennials could save U.S. manufacturing from a severe looming talent shortage – but they need to be interested first.
Despite a gradually recovering job market, many millennials still feel their job prospects are dim. One Federal Reserve survey found that just 45 percent of young workers ages 18 to 30 are “optimistic about their job future,” and that only 29 percent of young workers have held the same job for one year.
But millennials might have more reason for optimism if they considered an industry they’re currently overlooking: manufacturing.
For many Americans who’ve been out of work long-term, there may never be a recovery.
The Department of Labor reports that the unemployment rate continues to decline. In June 2015, the economy added 223,000 jobs, bringing the jobless rate down to 5.3 percent.
But even as the jobs picture is improving, the plight of the “long-term unemployed” remains a persistent problem – thereby threatening to stain the otherwise rosy picture of the post-recession recovery.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that about 2.1 million Americans were “long-term unemployed” in June 2015 – meaning they were out of work for 27 weeks or more. Among these workers, nearly 1.4 million Americans have been out of work for a year or more.
German-style apprenticeships are gaining momentum as a way to help America’s young workers.
In America, the rite of passage that comes with turning 16 is to get a drivers’ license. In Germany, it’s to become an apprentice.
Since the 1970s, nearly two out of three young Germans opt at age 16 to enter the country’s apprenticeship system, which covers roughly 350 different occupations from mechanics to hairdressers, electricians to office workers.