LONDON, ONT. -- A survey conducted in the U.S. of 500 men and women, ages 18-24 found over half (56 per cent) had no interest in studying a trade.

The survey conducted by Metal Supermarkets exhibits a stigma that has existed for decades in North America, according to Learning Support Services specialist Dan Fish from Thames Valley District School Board.

“Parents want the best for their children, and they often think the university route is the best way to go.”

Fish says this is just the beginning with a shortage of over a million skilled trades workers expected in the next five years.

“This is going to on for a while. We need to prepare our people to fill the trade shortages.”

Fish and Mark Brotherston are in charge of a program called Special High Skills Major with the school board.

One of the reasons for the current shortage, according to Brotherston, is the lack of student exposure to trades before high school.

“[There's] so much conversation these days about trying to reach students at an earlier age, so they can make those decisions to take a tech course, for instance, in their high school. It’s pretty hard to make that choice if you’re not even aware of the tech subjects,” says Brotherston.

There are 144 named trades in Ontario ranging from plumbing and carpentry to tech and culinary. These courses often offer an alternative way to learn through apprenticeships and hands-on courses.

“Once a person discovers the advantage of apprenticeship, you’ll wonder why you ever thought of going to college or university, just because the benefits are so great in terms of cost and the learning style,” Brotherston adds.

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the average American trade school degree costs $33,000, compared to a $127,000 for a bachelor’s degree.