We’re at a tipping point in the industry. When it comes to engaging youth, sparking interest in the trades, and building foundational skills… It’s now or never. For too long, we’ve been relying on Band-aids, but we need to start gaining traction with substantive change. How is Hub & Spoke working to empower the next generation of skilled tradespeople?

It’s Never Too Soon to Train the Next Generation In the Skilled Trades

It’s never too late to learn a new skill. With some instruction, courses, YouTube videos, apps, and a lot of perseverance, you can, for instance, learn a new language, figure out how to code, or increase the amperage on a circuit breaker. But… What if you started early, practiced often, and built progressively more advanced skills? Imagine the heights you could reach – the career paths open to you, the possibilities for development and growth.

Someone who learns a language as an adult may be able to hold conversations, but it’s difficult to speak with the fluency of someone who’s been absorbing it and speaking it from a young age. That’s the reality. Here’s another: We need kids to be fluent in the skilled trades. We need to give them chances to explore working with their hands as soon as they can hold a plastic hammer.

Hub & Spoke Founder David Decker, says, “If we, as an industry, think we can wait until the next generation has graduated high school or college or is of working age, we are dead wrong. And we’ve missed an important opportunity.”

The Call for Systemic Change

We’ve heard about the skilled trades labor shortage so frequently that it’s become almost abstract. A problem, yes, but one that doesn’t have much to do with us. Until it does. Decker says, “We all know it’s an issue but then nothing really gets done towards fixing the system. Which is broken. Instead, we apply Band-Aids to solve the immediate pain points.”

Band-Aids are an attractive option because they’re cheap, easy, quick – and they fool us into thinking we’ve fixed the problem. We can’t afford to continue plastering over the wound, if you will. Instead, we need to act aggressively. It may not be easy, and it certainly won’t be quick, but it will be worth the investment.

How Hub & Spoke Is Helping Grow the Next Generation of Skilled Tradespeople

Hub & Spoke was founded to empower both adults and children to find their purpose and passion earlier in life. Workforce development is a central focus, as is arming youth with the tools (literally) and skills they need both on the job and in life. It’s all about giving kids those opportunities to explore. And we believe that the sooner they start, the better.

Once children have graduated from the Tinker Cart that Hub & Spoke offers to progressively more challenging chances for them to learn and make:

Teacher-in-Residence

Through a partnership with Hub & Spoke, the City of Fishers, and the Hamilton Southeastern School district, roughly 1,600 5th graders come through the Teacher-in-Residence program. This is not a field trip. It’s an integral part of their curriculum. Twice a year for two days, these 10–11-year-olds come to the Maker Playground to explore, to experiment, to succeed, and just as importantly, to fail.

Teacher-in-Residence Jennifer Suskovich, a veteran educator, says that a critical part of the program is “the grit and sticking with something, the growth mindset, if you will. [They learn that] things may not always work right, and it may take 2, 5, 20 tries until they get it to work. I’d really love students to leave here with the belief that they can be successful, and they can do this – at 10 and 11 years old!”

Students receive hands-on opportunities to build their skills (and some pretty impressive birdhouses), utilizing tools and technology that they likely wouldn’t have access to otherwise. Challenges include designing and creating a 3D fidget ring, creating a circuit and switch, programming a robot to complete tasks, and building nesting boxes for the eastern bluebird. These kids are putting their brains and hands to work, sharpening critical thinking, math, science, engineering, design, and creative prowess.

Ms. Suskovich says, “People come here and ask why 10- and 11-year-olds? [The] 5th grade is the perfect time to capture these students’ interest in STEM and in becoming entrepreneurs. [We are] showing them the possibilities that are out there.”

Entremaker

The Entremaker program is geared towards anyone 14+ who is interested in learning basic skills and exploring opportunities in the industry. In addition to getting a solid foundation in safety, construction math, construction drawing, communication, rigging, employability, and other essentials, students in this five-week introductory course have the unbeatable experience of working together with a diverse group of people who all want to explore the trades.

Entremaker’s pioneer class included Lily, a homeschooled teenager. She captured one of the main goals of the program perfectly, saying, “Since I’m in high school and trying to figure out what I want to do, I thought… Why not? I want to work with my hands. I’m exploring everything.”

Nailed it, Lily. This is the point: Exploration. Who knows what’ll happen down the road for her and other participants… But they now have basic trades skills on which they can build.

This is a credentialed class made possible through the collaboration of Hub & Spoke, Fishers Maker Playground, and Ivy Tech. Upon completion, students’ credentials are entered into the NCCER National Registry System; these lifetime credits follow them throughout their careers, should they choose to go into the trades. And if they don’t? Well, they have the option – and the skills – to apply their learning in their own lives.

Partnerships

We’ve mentioned partnerships with Fishers, with Ivy Tech, with HSE… These are a necessary component in training the next generation of skilled tradespeople. David Decker says, “It’s going to take a village on this one, to make things better and ensure a successful future. Change starts with everyone doing something for the greater good. It doesn’t matter how small, just do something to move the needle.”

Our private industry partners, including Delta Faucet, Regions Bank, Stanley Security, and more are crucial. They help shape curriculum, provide internships and mentorships, lead workplace tours, provide guidance and feedback to students, and engage people – youth and adults – in the trades. In exchange, they develop a pipeline of local talent, boost employee engagement, and give back to their communities. We can’t do it alone, and we’re not.

Be Part of the Solution

At Hub & Spoke, there many ways to do something and create change. From serving as an industry partner to signing up for Entremaker to encouraging your child to explore their options more fully, when we work together, we truly can move that needle.

Learn more about workforce development at Hub & Spoke.