Students get reminder: Skilled workers are important, too

- Before a group of hundreds of students, actor -- and former carpenter -- John Ratzengerger was inspiring kids to take the road less traveled nowadays: To forego the four-year college degree and understand the importance of owning a skill.

“Whether it’s being an electrician or a carpenter or a welder, it makes no difference, but you will always possess that skill," Ratzenberger said. "And it doesn’t prevent you from becoming a stockbroker or a lawyer or an Indian chief. You own this skill. So you could get a job anywhere in the world.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the skilled worker shortage is expected to grow to 1.6 million workers by 2022. State agriculture commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam says there’s a shortage, especially in a high-growth state like Florida.

“If you look at all of the projects that are underway in the Tampa Bay area, and all of those that are on the drawing boards -- two dozen construction cranes on the horizon, possibly a new baseball stadium. New school needs, new health care needs -- they all require people to make those project happen,” Putnam said.

Ratzenberger blames part of that shortage to the removal of shop class in school.

“What happened 30 years ago is they canceled what we used to call shop classes. That’s where you learned really common sense things, you learn how to take care of yourself. And home-ec courses, too. Well, that was all taken away.”

Senior Alex Myers signed on to work with Tri-City Electric at the job fair.  “You get to see the lights kick on, and the outlets start working, everything comes together and it kind of just powers everything. It’s essential, and it’s a very essential area.”

Myers was one of seven students who signed on with Tampa-area companies to begin work upon graduation.

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