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Mantra that high-earners need college degrees ‘is not true anymore,’ Forge CEO says

Forge CEO and Founder Mark Kasdorf joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the differences between trade schools and universities, the Forge apprentice program and its benefits, and the outlook for the labor market.

Video Transcript

JARED BLIKRE: And we want to stick with the housing market here. So the labor market might be showing some signs of cooling, but there are pockets of the economy that are still proving fairly resilient. Specialty trade contractors added 18,000 jobs in September. That is one area of the workforce that has been battling with a shortfall of skilled talent and older workers eyeing the exit.

Boston-based company Forge is looking to change that by making the career path more accessible. Its CEO Mark Kasdorf joins me now. And Mark, just wondering what you're seeing in the latest numbers that we got from the BLS this morning on the jobs front.

MARK KASDORF: Yeah, hi, Jared. Thanks for having me on. I think the latest numbers are really interesting and really unsurprising, in many ways. I think what's more interesting is we've been running out of people in the trades for almost 30 years now. The average age of people in the trades has been rising for 30 years. It's past 46 years old. The average age of an electrician is 60 now. The jobs report and what we're seeing is kind of a culmination of a huge macro trend in the economy. And it's only getting worse right now.

JARED BLIKRE: And Mark, let's dig into that macro trend. I've noticed anecdotally myself-- and you can probably back this up with your expertise and actual data. But when the federal government started guaranteeing student loans way back, when was it, the late 2000, the aughts, 2008, 2009, '10, I noticed among people, some of my peers, their kids weren't necessarily going into these trade schools.

They were getting geared and put into colleges because of those easier borrowing costs. I'm just wondering, are we seeing a shift as a result of the pandemic, or maybe we're seeing a reversal of that where we're seeing people opt for these trade schools instead of that four-year degree?

MARK KASDORF: Yeah, well, I can definitely tell you, although that there is a stigma in the trades and it's been harder and harder to get young people to go into it, we run a paid apprentice program where we bring people in, we pay them to learn. We're getting hundreds of applicants for every single program. We run programs of 12 people. So I can tell you, at least here in Boston, there's a lot of young people that would love a debt-free career working with their hands. There's just not that many on-ramps to get into the trades for people today.

JARED BLIKRE: And is there any sort of public-private partnership? We know that these tend to accelerate interest in a lot of these programs. Anything you can take advantage, for better or worse, in that field?

MARK KASDORF: Yeah, I think as part of the infrastructure package that was passed a few months ago by the Biden administration, there's absolutely workforce development dollars available. We got a small grant from Massachusetts as they look to bring more and more people into the trades. Without some kind of public partnership, public-private partnership, we're not going to have any one to rebuild this country in another decade. So I think something has to be done, and the administration is well aware at this point.

JARED BLIKRE: And when we get back to the university versus the trade school kind of debate here, what does it look like in terms of cost? What does somebody potentially save by going to a trade school over a four-year university?

MARK KASDORF: Well, so with Forge, they save a lot, right? If we just kind of average out the average university education of $100,000 and say people start earning when they're 22, 23 years old, we pay people $15 an hour to do nothing, but learn.

When they graduate, we give them a W2 job and start them out at just about a $50,000 income with health insurance. And they can start that at 18, 19 years old. And we can get people to a six-figure income in under a decade. So I think the mantra that you have to go to college to make money is actually not true anymore. And there's a ton of amazing jobs out there that lead to a six-figure income in the trades.

JARED BLIKRE: And we got a minute left here. I'll give you the floor. Anything else that you'd like to say to our viewers?

MARK KASDORF: Sure. I think that you talked about the aughts and some of the shifts that happened then. I think what's really interesting to me as I've talked to older people in the trades, if you go back to the '50s, a doctor, a lawyer, an electrician, a plumber, they went to the same bar. They went to the same church. They were all in the Rotary Club. They were all peers. They were all master craftspeople.

And that really started to change in the late 1960s with the push to send everyone to college. We have to change that in America. Being in the trades is a respected thing. You create an enormous amount of value. You're rebuilding this country. And Forge really hopes that we can be a big part of that going forward.

JARED BLIKRE: One more reason to support your point. Arguably, we have too many lawyers. Just going to throw that out there. Forge CEO and founder, Mark Kasdoff-- Mark Kasdorf, excuse me, thank you for joining us today.