ST. ALBANS — Students should be exposed and encouraged to pursue a career in the skilled trades on the same level as a college education because the wages are competitive, a career is almost guaranteed with the nationwide shortage of workers, and the students will not graduate with massive student loan debt, according to Steve Wunsch, a building trades teacher at Northwest Technical Center (NWTC).

“Everybody’s hurting for employees,” said Wunsch. He said a depleted workforce in the skill trades is a nationwide problem.

The average age of workers in construction is between the mid-to-late 50s, according to Wunsch. “They’re dying for our kids,” he said, to replace the workers who will retire in five to 10 years.

Wunsch said he thinks students and their parents need to be aware of the golden opportunities in the skilled trades.

Gary Morin, a project manager at Alliance Mechanical in Essex Junction, graduated from the building trades program at NWTC.

Morin said he was able to work his way up the ranks in the company relatively quickly after earning a degree in construction management from Vermont Technical College and completing his plumbing apprenticeship because he was motivated, worked hard, and wanted to make it his career.

Morin said he was fortunate growing up because he knew a family member who worked in almost every single trade, including construction and plumbing. “I’ve always had a taste of it,” he said.

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