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What does U.S. skilled trades education in high school look like right now? And what do we as a country think about it and want from it?

We commissioned two independent organizations—JFF, a nonprofit that works to drive economic advancement for all Americans, and NORC, a nonpartisan polling organization at the University of Chicagoto answer these questions. Our hope was to start productive conversations about the potential of high school skilled trades education to uplift students, families, communities, and our economy.

As we prepared to bring the results of these first-of-their-kind studies to light, COVID-19 spread around the world, shuttering schools, workplaces, and life as we know it, and casting into sharp relief what it means to do an “essential” job. We are releasing these reports in highly uncertain times, and the assumptions about the future upon which the reports rested are shifting dramatically. But even as we come to terms with the economic and social costs of the pandemic, this moment calls for deeper appreciation for the skilled tradespeople who keep our homes, offices, public works systems, and, crucially, our hospitals running.

We have an urgent and deeper sense of commitment to bringing excellent skilled trades education to American public high schools—so our communities have the benefit of their skills in the recovery, and so students can have a head start on pathways to fulfilling, good paying, and, yes, essential careers. 

We hope you will take part in this conversation by engaging with and sharing the information below, and by emailing us at to share your thoughts.

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of parents say their children would be better prepared for a career if they had the chance to study a trade in high school.

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students study skilled trades nationwide.

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of voters across the political spectrum describe the skilled trades as important.


Breaking Ground: A First Look at American High School Skilled Trades Education

The gaps, bright spots, and significant opportunities to change current practice to better meet the needs of our country, and create opportunity for young Americans. Research conducted by JFF.

What Americans Want from High School Skilled Trades Education

Voters, parents, and high school students share a remarkably positive view of skilled trades classes and support greater investment in these courses. Polling by NORC at the University of Chicago.

Talk to Us!

What sparked your interest the most in these studies?
How do you plan to use or share this research?
Did we miss something?
And what questions should we investigate next?