We all remember that one classroom at the end of the hall, the one that never failed to produce loud noises and a never-ending smell of wood and metal. At least for many millennial and gen z students, shop class was a class reserved for those who needed an extra credit on their transcript or had an additional elective. Those who took shop classes were predominantly male students who had difficulty paying attention, who didn't see college as a viable option for their future, and did not see the point in taking their academic careers seriously. To the rest of the students in the school, shop class, if offered at all, was just the classroom at the end of the hall, fostering little importance. But these hands-on classes were not always viewed in this light. In fact, not so long ago, shop class was one of the most important classrooms on campus. A place where students could leave at the end of the day, having learned vital skills that could be applied to various aspects of their everyday lives.
Considered an essential part of a school curriculum, shop class was one of the most commonly offered classes throughout school districts in the country in the 70s and 80s. As a vocational education course, shop class would teach students woodwork, metalwork, and mechanics, amongst other preliminary trades. In effect, allowing the participating students to develop organizational, problem solving, and critical thinking skills that could be easily applied to future careers. Additionally, allowing them the opportunity to discover carpenter, building, or mechanic careers, even opening the door to the visual arts world. The emphasis placed on the importance of being able to create something of quality and value with your hands made the concept of shop class very appealing to students. However, over time these values have shifted. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) related subjects have become the powerhouse of the educational environment in recent years. The value of shop class, in effect, has become diluted in a technologically dominating world.
The consequences of not offering vocational courses such as shopping in schools have not gone unnoticed and can be seen in the growing modern-day middle-skills workers gap. As it turns out, maintaining a quality environment where students can be exposed to different career paths is an essential part of maintaining a healthy working class. Despite the shift in our society's values, emphasizing the importance of trade careers in schools and providing an outlet for students to learn new skills can only benefit the students in the long hall.
We can also take the opportunity to use the revival of shop class to modernize the idea of trade careers and improve the attitudes students may have towards them. While many students may think that becoming a plumber or builder is not a prestigious job, making sure they understand the importance and impact these careers have in their daily lives can make a huge difference. Trade jobs are directly tied to many energy, sustainability, and environmental issues. Teaching shop classes alongside different subjects, such as math, chemistry, history, and art, can show the students the drastic influence their trade career could have on the future of the world. With increasing tuition costs for universities and a dwindling guarantee of employment after graduation, students in the United States are desperately searching for alternative options. Shop class could not only give them a break from sitting in a chair all day as they do in their regular classes, but it can also help them discover an amazing new career they didn't know existed.