BOISE -- There are plenty of jobs here in Idaho and across the nation that can't be filled because there's not enough skilled welders, electricians, or technicians to fill them. Trades are the biggest gap in the skills gap.

But why? Why aren't more young people interested in getting into the trades? We tried to find out.

Our first stop was at Mountain View High School in Meridian. The seniors we talked to want to go into careers like marketing, engineering, and medicine, but don't necessarily have their eyes on the trades.

Oh no, that is just not my expertise at all, said Melanie Miller.

I don't think I could do that for a full-time job, said Taylor Hart. I don't know if I'd enjoy doing it as much. It's still interesting though.

I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty because I do like doing that. But as a profession day in and day out, I don't think I'd enjoy that, said Travis Dowdle.

Some high schoolers are interested in going into the trades, most of whom in this area take classes at the Dehryl A. Dennis Professional Technical Education Center. Students in any Boise, Meridian, or Kuna high school can take classes here, which gives them hands-on experience and preps them for a possible career in the trades.

T.J. Long is a senior at Borah High School who takes classes in heavy duty diesel. He wants to open his own diesel or restoration shop.

I've been in the advanced classes a lot growing up. So when I tell them I'm going into diesel it surprises people, said Long. Originally I was planning on engineering. But I decided to go with what I liked better.

Cole Rogers, also a senior at Borah, originally took classes at the center to help him maintain his own truck. But his classes grew into something more.

Now I'm getting all these career opportunities and it's really helped me out as in how I feel about my future and what I'm going to do with my life, said Rogers.

There's nothing wrong with the fact that many students don't think they'd enjoy the trades, like T.J. and Cole do. However, Mike Rowe, Dirty Jobs star and national advocate for closing the skills gap, says there's a bigger problem than just the perception of skilled trades.

It's a mentality gap, said Rowe. It's not just a shortage of skills but a shortage of will to learn the skills.

But perhaps if more kids tried the skills, a few more would see them as enjoyable.

Tanner Cleveland is a sophomore at Borah and takes welding classes. He sees welding as a backup plan to a possible career in music but he understands the appeal of working with your hands.

Welding is pretty cool, said Cleveland. You feel good when you actually pass a weld off and you get a sign off sheet and everything.

Not everyone should go into the trades. Rowe himself said he couldn't weld a straight line so he fell back on a career in music and TV. But he says he took a tradesman's work ethic with him and never stopped learning new skills in his entertainment career.

That's what I tried to do, said Rowe. I tried to look at showbiz the way my grandfather looked at carpentry and electric.

That could be the key to closing the skills gap, which Rowe calls a symptom of America's dysfunctional relationship with all work, not just the trades. He doesn't want to force kids into the trades, but wants to help more of them to understand something that the students we talked to seemed to already get.

No matter what you choose you do, you can approach it as a tradesman, said Rowe. There's nothing inherently good or bad about learning a trade. What's really for sale is the decision to approach work with that ethic. Apply it to whatever you want.

Read or Share this story: