I-Team: Skilled trades offer high pay, job satisfaction for Georgians

by Dana Fowle

Aired March 4, 2022

ATLANTA – A big part of the economic recovery post-pandemic hinges on skilled labor getting us back up to speed. But there aren’t enough workers. The alarm over the lack of skilled labor has been going on for years, but now we are feeling it. Today, there are 5,000 construction jobs open in Georgia alone.

A recent statewide competition called SkillsUSA brought together several thousand high school and vocational students to work with their hands, to show off their talents, to compete with one another, and to get ready to enter the job market.

There was building, plumbing and welding. On another side – cosmetology, electrical wiring, and woodworking.

Roswell High School junior Camden Mattison applied his plumbing expertise.

“I like being able to touch things. I never really like work in, ya know, in a closed environment,” he told the FOX 5 I-Team. “I like doing something the whole entire time. Sweating. I enjoy that more than sitting at a desk.”

And that makes sense as a learner with dyslexia. Students like Mattison have greater awareness of spatial relationships. Hands-on skills like carpentry can be a real path to success.

“For those kids who are more applied, hands on, they’re very tactile learners. These are great skills. It works, but it also builds that confidence,” Camden’s mother Gabi Mattison said. “Skilled labor, it’s needed, and it’s something to be proud of.”

If you walked the floor, you saw aeronautical, HVAC, and barbering tables. Workers who all of us rely on.

Scott Shelar is CEO and president of Construction Ready, a nonprofit group working to raise up the skilled labor force. And he’ll be the first to tell you these jobs can be lucrative.

“One of the electrical contractors out there was offering $150,000 for a skilled electrician. $150,000 a year,” he said. “An electrical apprentice coming out of school will make $70,000.”

One of the reasons students are saddled today with crushing student debt has been the decades-long pressure to attend a four-year university. Too many students drop out midway with debt and without a job to repay the loans. And it’s becoming clearer, that is simply not a fit for everyone. Just ask Camden’s mom.

“My daughter, she was a college graduate from Emory here in Atlanta. And that’s not the path for my son. It’s OK,” she said.

Camden captured a bronze medal for his work. He says he doesn’t plan to be a plumber. He’s just adding to his set of skills. He’s in high school and runs a power washing business. The SkillsUSA competition reminds him that he wants what we all want.

“I just want to become successful,” he said. “That’s it.”

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