Trade-school advocate wants federal provisions promoting skilled-trade professions

Millions of Americans will get some relief from student-loan debt. The plan has its share of supporters and detractors. Others say the deal is a good step but doesn’t go far enough.

The Biden administration’s new forgiveness plan could erase up to $10,000 a year in federal student loans for more than 40-million Americans.

Scott Shelar says it could help steer young Americans away from a lifetime of paying back the high-cost of a four-year college. But he says it’s far from complete. "It’s half done as far am concerned," said Shelar, president and CEO of construction ready, an Atlanta-based non-profit that offers entry-level training in skilled trades in the construction industry. "We have to look at the whole picture of advising students. What is the best path for after high school?"

Shelar says he’d like to see a federal provision that promotes more support for training young Americans in skilled trade professions like construction. "The assumption for a long was that the only path to success was to get a four-year degree and become a lawyer or doctor. We have plenty of doctors, lawyers and engineers. What we need in the economy right now are electricians and plumbers and heavy equipment operators," Shelar said.

Those fields, Shelar says, don’t require an expensive degree or incurring tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars in student-loan debt. "Employers are so desperate for these types of workers that they will pay to train you," Shelar said. "They’ll pay you for work. They’ll pay you for training. It’s all free. There’s no charge to you."

Entry-level workers can start in the range of $15 to $20 an hour. "It’s very common to make over six figures in the construction industry, whether you’re a plumber, an electrician, heavy equipment operator," Shelar said.

And he says jobs are plenty of jobs. "Right now in Georgia there are over 10,000 openings in those types of positions."