The Future is Bright in Skilled Trades

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in skilled trades is expected to grow four percent through 2029. The Maryland Workforce Exchange projects that job growth in construction and extraction, the category in which these jobs fall, will be among the highest in Maryland.

This is good news for Eastern Shore residents looking to find jobs, make change careers, and improve skills to advance in their careers. The job market is also growing in truck driving, design and drafting, welding, marine services, real estate, and a host of industries that do not require college degrees and offer good pay and benefits.

Decades ago our culture shifted to a focus on preparing students for college and careers in business. Careers in high tech became the rage and are still in high demand.  Next the U.S. was hit with lean years in manufacturing, and then there was the Great Recession of 2008.

It’s taken some time for these careers to recover, but baby boomers are beginning to retire and many positions are going unfilled. This presents new opportunities for current job seekers.

Training for the Trades

Chesapeake College offers a variety of training, certifications, and licensure preparation in fields like electrical, HVAC, welding, drafting and design, marine technology, home improvement, real estate, and pool operations.

“Statistics indicate there are some 5.8 million jobs in the U.S. in skilled trades,” says Jason Mullen, Director of Skilled Trades at Chesapeake College. “Traditional tradesmen are aging out and the next generation is not trained and ready to take over. Our goal is to offer efficient and affordable preparation to get qualified people into jobs as soon as possible.”

Among the most popular trades programs at Chesapeake College is the Commercial Drivers License (CDL) program. In Maryland, projections indicate 2440 job openings and 6% job growth annually.

“We are able to take 12 students every 12 weeks, and we have a waiting list,” Mullen says. “Tractor trailer drivers can earn $30,000 and upwards of $75,000 a year. That’s a good living if you enjoy driving.”

Other skilled trades also pay well and offer satisfying career opportunities. In Maryland, the median annual wage for an electrician is $57,190. CAD drafters and virtual designers earn a median salary of $55,550, and the program is only 18 months.

Finding Financial Aid

Chesapeake College students are able to prepare for careers without the burden of student loan debt. State and regional scholarships, grants, sponsorship billing arrangements, flexible payment plans, and institutional scholarships are available to assist students in both credit and non-credit programs.

One source of scholarships is the Upper Shore Workforce Investment Board (USWIB).

“We have a variety of funding available for students from Talbot, Kent, Queen Anne, Dorchester, and Caroline counties,” explains Joanne Gannon, Upper Shore Workforce Scholarship Office Director at the USWIB. “Last year, we awarded 110 scholarships, which amounted to almost everyone who applied.”

The USWIB recently received a $1 million federal national emergency grant in addition to the local, state and other federal funding they receive annually, which will allow them to expand the program.

“There are a lot of displaced workers, especially those doing multiple ‘gigs’,” Gannon says. “Many are thinking about switching careers, and this funding offers them the opportunity to explore skilled trades and other careers.”

Gannon recalls one applicant who worked at a restaurant and decided she wanted to work on the supply side of the industry. She went through the Commercial Truck Driving course and now works for a food supplier as a delivery driver.

For those looking to start their own business, Chesapeake College and USWIB offer “Build Your Own Business” or BYOB, an online information program that is free and open to anyone who lives in the five-county area the college serves.

To get in touch with the USWIB about scholarships send an email to For more information about training for the skilled trades and professional certifications at Chesapeake College, email or call 410-822-5400 ext. 2360.