4 Valuable Career Skills Learned in Shop Class
February 23, 2021
Author: Jonathan Arnholz, NCCER Social Media Specialist
Is your child interested in taking “shop class” at their middle or high school?
Courses that have traditionally been known as shop class – or instruction in a craft or trade such as carpentry, electrical, masonry or even welding – fall under a branch of education known as “career and technical education,” or CTE for short. These types of classes provide hands-on learning opportunities, such as how to properly use a range of tools and building materials.
CTE courses offer a number of proven benefits to students. Despite this, the popularity of shop class in schools has fallen in recent decades. Why? With the rise of the idea that students need to go to college and earn a four-year degree to be successful, many parents and even schools themselves have steered students toward more academically focused electives.
While academics are important, so are the real-world connections and relevant competencies that can be learned in career and technical education. Here are four valuable career skills that students can learn in CTE courses, and why you should consider these opportunities for your children.
One of the most obvious and valuable benefits of taking a CTE course is the technical skills that students learn.
This is the knowledge of how to actually physically do something. How to cut wood using a table saw; how to install a light switch on the wall; how to build a chair or a bird house.
Being able to work and create with your hands is a timeless aptitude, and it offers a number of advantages.
Hands-on learning is shown to keep students more engaged in school, especially those who may not excel in traditional classroom settings. 81% of high school dropouts say that relevant, real-world learning opportunities would have kept them in school, and multiple studies show that taking CTE courses can give a significant boost to graduation rates.
Beyond the in-school benefits, learning technical skills also helps prepare students for future careers. Carpenters, electricians, plumbers and other types of craft professionals are in high demand, earn good salaries and don’t require a four-year degree or the debt that comes with it.
Even if your child chooses not to pursue a career in a trade, those skills will remain useful throughout their lives. For example, DIY renovations and basic home repairs can be much easier (and cheaper!) thanks to what they learn in shop class.
Effort and attitude are important qualities that employers in any field look for in their employees. Developing a strong work ethic will help students land more jobs and promotions and drive them to success.
Career and technical education courses do a lot to teach about work ethic. After all, many of the craft instructors for shop class have a background working in the industry themselves and know the needs and expectations of employers first-hand.
One of the many ways that CTE can teach students about work ethic is by instilling a sense of pride and responsibility in their work. For some students, traditional classroom assignments and homework don’t offer much feeling of reward. But when the assignment results in a physical and tangible outcome, like the projects in a shop class, it is easier to see the fruits of your labor. Taking pride and ownership of what they make pushes students to give it their best effort.
Being able to work within a team is a necessary skill for almost all professions. Communicating with your teammates, trusting them and making sure you’re doing your part is crucial to the success of any project, from developing a new product to constructing a house or a skyscraper.
Team projects are a frequent component of career and technical education curricula. Projects where individuals are able to contribute their unique talents can lead to creations that were not possible if only done solo. The joint effort of these group projects often mirrors similar situations to a real-world job site; a home can only be built if the framers, electricians, plumbers, roofers and others are all coordinating and in sync with one another and the features they are putting in place.
Students can also learn about teamwork through collaboration with other programs within the school. CTE classes often use the needs of other departments as teaching opportunities for their own. For example, a carpentry class might help the school’s drama club build a backdrop and scenery for a play or help build a studio for a broadcast journalism class. Being able to discuss and determine the scope of different projects is an important part of communication.
Problems and unexpected challenges sometimes arise both in the classroom and the real world. Being able to meet those challenges head-on and find a solution is another critical skill that shop class can help to teach.
Being able to look at a situation, evaluate all options and find an answer to a problem can be a challenging skill to master. CTE provides a great avenue for creative problem-solving and critical thinking. These problems aren’t limited to pre-written questions and multiple-choice answers. They happen naturally and there are many different routes to a positive outcome, making the experience richer and more relevant.
Shop Class: Making Students Career-Ready
Some parents may dismiss shop class as an unnecessary course for their children, instead encouraging them to take more traditional academic classes. But the unique learning opportunities provided by career and technical education are hard to ignore. Studies show that CTE students are significantly more likely than non-CTE students to develop career skills such as problem-solving, communication, time management and critical thinking.
If your local school offers training in carpentry, masonry, electrical or another trade, give them serious consideration for your child. On top of the technical skills they will learn, they will also be better prepared for any job they may pursue in the future thanks to developing those career-ready skills.