Should my son follow his dad's suggestion and go to university?

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Hi Careers NZ

My son wants to be a plumber, but my husband is dead set against it. His dad was a plumber and was constantly tired and grumpy and he never had enough work, so the family never had much money. He wants our son to go to university like he did, have a fun experience and find a clean, easy job in an office. 

I love my son, but he’s just not university material, he’s not academic at all and would hate it. It feels like I have to come between them. How do I convince my husband to let my son be what he wants?

Caught between them, Paengaroa.

Hi Caught between them

It’s no fun to be caught between what your husband wants for your son and what your son actually wants for himself.

The problem lies with your husband’s perception that plumbing is poorly paid and not a secure career. The reality is quite different these days. With new technology improving work possibilities for trades, and demand from our booming construction industry pushing up pay rates and vacancies, plumbing – and trades in general – has never looked better as a smart career option.

You’re convinced, so how do you get your husband to share your own and your son’s views on working in trades?

Facts about why university might not work for your son

Make some time to sit down and share some of these facts about university study with your husband.

For example, university students spend around 40 hours a week or more studying. If your son is not academic, he’s probably not going to enjoy all that study time.

Students who don’t enjoy their study are more likely to drop out, and each year around 17% of students do. With the average costs associated with a degree sitting at around $21,000 that’s a lot of money to spend with nothing to show for it.

With a competitive job market it can be hard to find work right after graduation, and it’s worse if you’re not motivated to find a job in the sector you trained in. The current unemployment rate for people with a degree is 3.2%.

Facts about why a trade may be right for your son

The following facts may help win the argument with your husband about why a trade is a good option for your son.

  • Fees are around $11,000 to study a trade, whereas degrees cost an average of $21,000.
  • Demand for apprentices is high as not enough students are going into trades training.
  • Apprentices earn a training wage straight out of school. 
  • Apprentices get work experience on the job, so are more likely to find work when they finish their apprenticeship.
  • Tradies are in demand, with the job of plumber currently in shortage in Canterbury.
  • Tradies get paid well, with experienced plumbers earning up to $38 an hour, and sometimes more if there is a local shortage of plumbers.
  • Technology is helping to improve working conditions and reduce the amount of dirty and dangerous work that plumbers do.
  • There are good management options, with 90% of plumbers going on to start up their own business.

Reassure your husband that, in the long-term, a career in a trade is definitely a good bet. New Zealand’s population is ageing and many tradies are over the age of 40. Young people are needed to train in all sorts of trades to replace tradies who retire or progress into management or consultancy.

With these facts hopefully you’ll feel confident enough to encourage your husband to do some research into trades and to talk more with your son about why he wants to be a plumber.

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