Teens doing a factory tour at a Manufacturing Day event ©Dianna Huff

More research is coming out that trade work can be a better option for teens (boys and girls) not interested in pursuing a four-year university degree.

The benefits include earn while-you-learn apprenticeships, gaining a valuable skill, learning how to solve challenges, and job security. People always need a plumber in good times and bad.

Skilled or trade work also pays well, according to a Bloomberg report, with specialized fields, such as aircraft mechanics, paying $100,000 or more per year. In a Family Circle piece, Katie Bingham-Smith writes that her plumber husband has supported a family of five on one income.

If you’re a parent of teens, or you have teens in your extended family, you can do quite a bit to encourage them to learn more about trade work and manufacturing in general.

Participate in Manufacturing Day

During October, manufacturers across the U.S. open their facilities to school groups for tours. Individuals can also attend these tours. If you have a teen, take him or her on a tour of a factory in your area. If you have your own factory or work at one, bring your teen to work as often as possible. Visit NAM’s Creators Wanted website to learn more.

Encourage tinkering

We once heard the story of an inventor/entrepreneur who spent his childhood taking apart radios to see how they worked. While his mother fretted about the parts strewn everywhere, and the demolition of a family owned radio (or two), she didn’t stop her son from tinkering. Her son went on to create the in-vehicle GPS technology we all use today.

Teach kids how to fix things

With today’s complicated electronics embedded into many appliances, it can be difficult to fix things. However, teens can be taught how to use tools, to make simple repairs, such as replacing light switches or electrical outlets, and to change a vehicle’s flat tire or its fluids.

Take kids on factory tours

You don’t have to wait for Manufacturing Day for a factory tour. All kinds of companies offer them to the general public. Check out Factory Tours USA for a list of over 500 tours.

We love how Mathews Brothers, a window manufacturer in Maine, uses radio ads to tell people to visit their plant while on vacation (and to bring the fam). I’ve also done the Cape Cod Potato Chip factory tour; one memorable summer, my son did the Jelly Belly factory tour. Sweet!