By Allie Perez I’ve had the pleasure and honor of writing for SA2020 in regards to my passion for plumbing and San Antonio’s efforts and plans for sustainability. I operate a plumbing and hvac company in San Antonio and we struggle with finding qualified skilled workers. San Antonio’s unemployment rate is very low, one of the lowest in the country. Why, then, are we having such a hard time finding qualified skilled workers in the trades? I believe one of the biggest issues is the perception of trades – these “dirty jobs” have been mislabeled and misconceived as jobs with less status, money and opportunity for growth. The opposite is true! Trades enable you to “earn while you learn” in an apprentice program. Most apprentices earn at least $10-$15 to start, with no skills! Most times, your employer pays for your education and training. When you earn your license, you don’t have massive debt and you’re able to find work anywhere in the country. Trades help us accomplish these SA2020 goals: Maintain job growth – the construction industry is rapidly growing. Businesses are flocking to San Antonio for its high quality of life and low cost of living. To maintain this growth and continue to attract big business to spend their dollars in San Antonio, we need to be able to prove we can fill the vacancies in various industries. Increase high school students continuing education and gaining employment – According to the National Education Association and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 50% of high school graduates advance to college. Vocational education provides high school graduates with an alternative to college. Vocational schools often have programs to retain their students and assist with job placement after graduation. Increase quality of life – The trades pay well! Skilled trade workers are able to provide their families with comfortable lifestyles and recycle their dollars back in the city’s economy. What are the ramifications of not filling skilled trade jobs? Cost of skilled labor increases – Business are forced to pay workers more in overtime to accommodate for the lack of workers. Thus, causing the cost of the job to increase to cover the cost of labor and overhead. Deters businesses from coming to San Antonio – If they can’t fill the jobs, they won’t bring their jobs. San Antonio has done well at enticing big business to bring their dollars to the city. But, if employers are concerned about employment rates in their industry, they’ll take their money and jobs elsewhere. Currently, San Antonio offers a variety of options for someone interested in pursuing the trades. I am enrolled in a program through St. Phillip’s College, where I earn college credit and credit towards becoming a journeyman plumber. St. Phillip’s offers classes in many vocational fields, including: plumbing, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, welding and auto science. Classes are affordable and are offered in the evenings, for working adults. Trades education is also available at the high school level. Students can enroll at Warren High School’s magnet construction program. Fortunately, we live in a community with vocational training available. Now, we just need people to enroll in these courses and choose a vocational career path if that's what's right for them.