The Challenge






Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania is challenged with creating more memorable and engaging learning experiences around skilled trades career paths in today’s evolving educational landscape.

The initial challenge is to focus on educating and inspiring students on the skilled trades in our region, and then to expand the program to reach and impact students and communities across the entire country.

As part of this initial challenge, Junior Achievement of Western PA will bring to the forefront of students’ minds in grades 5-8 what skilled trades are, why they are vital to communities locally and nationally, and how a skilled trades path is an attractive option when compared to a traditional four-year college degree pathway.

This will allow for students to make more informed decisions about their future pathways by expanding the educational focus of skilled trades in schools within western PA and northern WV, with the support of local skilled trades professionals and businesses.


Not familiar
Half of students are not familiar with skilled trades careers
Consider options to
4-year degrees
72% of students think it is important to consider options for a four-year degree, but skilled trades are very low on their list
Don’t know enough
Over half of students cited not knowing enough about vocational/trade schools as a top reason for not enrolling

Unfortunately, the entire country is seeing a decrease in the number of students entering the skilled trades. Junior Achievement of Western PA took a human-centered approach to understand why students are not engaging in the skilled trades after high school. To get to the heart of the issue, the team interviewed students from western PA directly.

When it comes to skilled trades, students who do not have direct exposure to skilled trades experiences and education have very little understanding of the core concepts. They are unaware of key terminology, necessary technical and workplace readiness skills, general career requirements, apprenticeship and career opportunities, financial aspects, and more.

Students’ concepts of the skilled trades are typically dominated by roles that they have been exposed to in their daily lives and those that are more ‘visible’ within a trade, such as construction workers and electricians.

The human-centered research also revealed that students are directed towards the college pathway by people who are part of their circles of influence, such as their parents/caretakers, siblings, teachers, and popular culture.

While some students do understand the financial advantages of skilled trades careers, this does not sway their interest away from wanting to attend college and have the traditional “college experience.”

Students understand the need for these jobs in their communities, but they do not currently feel socially responsible for filling these vacant skilled trades careers.


Businesses are changing how they hire to counteract the labor shortages by adopting new technologies for the current skilled trade jobs and fostering a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Skilled trade businesses are laying the foundation for students to join the field and gain rewarding and fulfilling careers by revamping recruiting techniques and offering more flexible schedules, higher pay, referral bonuses, appealing benefits, perks, and more.


Mahoney, S. (2022, January 27). Wolverine Aims to Boost Interest in Skilled Trades.

Marcus, Jon. (2021, December 31) Long Disparaged, Education for Skilled Trades Is Making a Comeback.

Salandro, V. (2022, January 26). Wolverine Partners with Uncommon Construction to Encourage High Schoolers To Consider Careers In Skilled Trades.

Support the Trades. (August 26, 2021)., uploaded by SkillsUSA.