Why Every Black Youth Must Learn a Trade

For decades, the campaign has been the same. “Go to college, get a degree so you can get a ‘good job’,” said every Black parent to their children. This was adopted as the formula for success after corporate White folks were strong-armed by Civil Rights laws into removing their “Whites Only” signs. Back then they called it integration. Today we refer to it as the “illusion of inclusion.” Our pitiful socio-economic condition is the greatest proof that that’s all it was.

I am a firm believer that when a game plan isn’t working you cannot be afraid to switch it up. How well has this formula for success worked out for our people? The wealth gap between Black America and White America is about as wide as the gap between the Earth and Pluto, and getting wider. A recent study conducted by the Institute for Policy Studies claims that by the year 2053, the median household income for Black families in America will be $0.

Interestingly enough, Black and Brown citizens are on course to be the population majority in the U.S. by 2044. This means that the population of White America will diminish, but their wealth and power will only get stronger.

Black America should be paying close attention to these predictions while at the same time quoting the great philosopher Bishop Bullwinkle: “Hell to the naw, to the naw naw naw.”

When a powerful storm is approaching, wise people engage in what it called “disaster preparedness.” How do we prepare our children for the future? Should we continue to sell them the same ole’ “get a degree, get a job” song that we’ve been singing? Corporate America is replacing most of these jobs with robots, machines and artificial intelligence options. As technology advances, this will only intensify. Jobs will continue to dry up; particularly for Black and Brown people who tend to occupy these jobs. We must make sure that our young people are equipped with marketable skills that will empower them to create jobs for themselves as these corporate jobs dry up.

We must establish a rule among us that every Black youth (especially males) must learn and master a trade. I recently had a conversation with a welding school instructor/owner. He informed me that the city of Houston is short 250,000 welders. I was astonished at these numbers. A person with a welding certificate can always find well-paying work. He and I were both speakers at an event. He was GIVING AWAY full scholarships to his welding school that day, but very few young people seemed interested. This is due to a lack of understanding passed down through the culture.

Three hundred-plus years of back-breaking labor on slave plantations created a strange relationship between Black folks and “hard labor.”

I can imagine that once our ancestors stepped foot off the plantation into “freedom” they never wanted to see another piece of cotton again. We came to this country on slave ships, but we also came as highly skilled tradesmen and master builders. It’s in our DNA. Our children must be taught that to perform hard work is honorable, even if it means getting your hands dirty. The key is to make sure you are working for yourself.

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught the Black man and woman to “do for self.”

One of the most effective ways to position yourself to do for self is to learn and master a trade. To learn computer coding in this day and time is to be able write your own ticket. Plumbers, welders, machinists, aircraft mechanics, electricians and other trades will always be in demand. Learn a trade and turn that trade into a profitable business. The goal must always be ownership.

The worst thing they could do to the educational system is take prayer out of schools.

The “second-worse” thing is when they took trades out of schools. We must raise hell and demand that they put trades back in our educational institutions. This creates options for our youth.

Our young boys must learn to do something with their hands besides scroll through Instagram and play video games. Let the men of the community who have mastered these trades create Saturday schools where young people are taught drywall, landscaping, carpentry, etc. This is key to our survival.

I am not saying that college does not have its place. Certain fields, such as accounting, law and medicine require college degrees. If you get a college degree make sure it is one you can use.

My advice is to do both. Even if you have a degree you should still pick up a trade. It will give you something to fall back on when things don’t seem to be adding up.

Let us, as a community, do a better job at educating our youth about trade opportunities, entrepreneurship and ownership. Encourage them to master a skill and bet on themselves. An economic storm is coming. It is our responsibility to make sure our youth are prepared.