Developing skills for trade

A colleague of mine told me a story about a high school welding teacher who engaged him in conversation by asking “How much do you make in a year?” Well, if you know anything about journalism, none of us is doing this because we want to get rich. And my friend told the teacher as much.

The teacher just chuckled and said — believe it or not — he had a young lady from his classes, now a recent graduate, who had specialized in a particular kind of welding as a student. A high school student, remember.

“She’s making $80,000 a year right out of high school!” the teacher said.

Seems mind-boggling, doesn’t it? Especially when one thinks about the determination it must have taken for that young lady to pursue such a skill in the face of what must have been a great deal of doubt, at first.

But think about it. That story was told this year. Before much of the development we are being promised has even been laid out on the drawing board. If even half of what we are being promised comes true, there will be lots of that kind of job available to local folks. Are we ready?

Certainly the students in our local tech centers and community colleges will have a leg up, as will the skilled tradesmen already scraping by from job to job these days.

But what about the kid whose parents tell him it’s OK to spend four years racking up debt while getting a liberal arts degree based mainly on courses like The History of Play-Doh, and Art Appreciation with an Upper Uzbekistan Focus. (Someone please tell me neither of those courses actually exists.)

Don’t get me wrong, there is value to the courses that expand one’s exposure rather than to develop any real skill. My own college career was full of them.

Parents and teachers have to be willing to adjust the conversation, though. We are doing kids a disservice if we look down our noses at their desire to work with their hands, develop a trade, or build something. And if local kids aren’t prepared to fill the jobs everyone says are coming our way, guess who will.

If local kids start now, considering the possibility that their careers might not be behind a desk in another state, but working a trade right here at home, where they can live and raise their families as they were raised, it does not narrow their opportunities, it expands them. They’ve got to work hard. They’ve got to stay drug-free. They’ve got to keep their eyes on the prize. But it is not an option we should eliminate for them.


If you have not already done so, there is still time to grab an Angel Tree tag, put a few dollars in a Salvation Army kettle or make a donation to any of the other wonderful organizations working to make the holiday season a little brighter for local families. Do what you can, even if, to you, it seems like only a little. To a child on Christmas morning, it will seem like quite a lot!

Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at