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New Poll Shows Overwhelming Demand for Skilled Trades Classes in L.A. County High Schools

Los Angeles, CA

New Poll Shows Overwhelming Demand for Skilled Trades Classes in L.A. County High Schools

More than three-quarters of voters strongly support increasing funding to expand classes in construction, welding, advanced manufacturing, and other skilled trades that offer students strong career opportunities

Natalya Puga inspects a weld on a cooking grate for her barbecue grill project as part of the Da Vinci Schools skilled trades summer program in Los Angeles County. (Photo by Ben Gibbs/Harbor Freight Tools for Schools)

LOS ANGELES (March 21, 2024) – A new survey found a supermajority of voters, parents, and students want high schools in Los Angeles County to reestablish and invest in skilled trades programs that offer students pathways to good-paying jobs in industries seeing booming demand.

Poll Highlights: Findings, Charts and Research Video

Eighty-seven percent of voters agree that it “was a mistake” to remove classes in subjects including carpentry, welding, transportation mechanics, and other skilled trades from most Los Angeles high schools and identify this removal as a convincing reason to expand skilled trades education in public high schools.

Today, fewer than 1 in 5 public high schools in L.A. County’s 80 school districts offer any type of skilled trades education. Merely 20 schools across the County offer classes in construction and only one offers an electrical course, despite nationwide labor shortages in these high-paying fields. In Southern California, an electrician or entry level utility lineman can earn an annual salary of anywhere from $65,000 to $100,000.

L.A.-based public opinion research firm EVITARUS conducted the survey on behalf of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools, which is a program of The Smidt Foundation. The mission of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is to increase support and understanding of, and investment in, skilled trades education in U.S. public high schools. The Smidt Foundation was established by Eric Smidt, the owner and founder of Harbor Freight Tools.

Strikingly, supermajorities – 84% of voters, 89% of parents, and 83% of students – expressed support for increasing state and local funding to expand skilled trades offerings in local public high schools. Three-quarters of parents said they would encourage their child to take a skilled trades class if it were offered, regardless of whether their child was college-bound.

“Voters, parents, and students are making it abundantly clear that high schools in L.A. County should be doing a lot more to prepare students for careers and good wage jobs that are in high demand,” said Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. “With billions of dollars of federal infrastructure funding headed to our community, it is essential that young people in Los Angeles have the opportunity to learn the trades and graduate from high school with the necessary skills to be hired.”

The team at EVITARUS surveyed more than 1,000 respondents, including 400 registered voters, 495 parents of students attending public high schools in L.A. County, and 258 students attending local public high schools.

“We set out to hear from public school students and parents who too often are not included in polling on public policy issues,” said lead researcher and EVITARUS managing partner Shakari Byerly. “We asked students what they want for their future, and we found a deep interest in finding pathways to fulfilling, well-paying careers, such as the skilled trades, that offer them the chance to live and work in their own community.”

Students in a series of four focus groups held by EVITARUS across Los Angeles repeatedly said they wanted the opportunity to learn about skilled trades and add more tools to their educational toolbox. Many said taking a skilled trades class is “very important” because it could lead to finding a passion and getting internships and other early job experience.

Students and parents alike share concerns about the cost of college, and they see high school as the optimal time to gain career exposure and training. “For those who might have not thought they would ever want to do that job, they’re getting the opportunity to do it in high school, and for free, so it’s kind of a win-win,” said one student at a focus group held at the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Los Angeles Harbor.

Seventy-six percent of voters strongly agreed that high schools in L.A. County need to do a better job of creating pathways for students not attending college. Research shows only a small minority of Los Angeles high school graduates – approximately 1 in 4 – will earn a four-year college degree within six years of graduation.

“We need to do a better job equipping all students for life after high school,” said La Mirada High School Teacher Brent Tuttle, one of the handful of welding teachers in all of L.A. County. “I love watching students discover a passion while learning valuable, real-world skills that can be the basis for a career. It’s the cherry on top when I hear from former students that they’re earning six figures just a few years after graduation using the skills we worked on together. But classes like mine are an endangered species.”

With Los Angeles facing a looming shortage of skilled trades workers and projections indicating that the number of trade jobs will see a double-digit increase in the next 10 years, 87% of voters said local young people should have access to these jobs in their community.

A new report by the National Skills Coalition estimated that recently passed federal programs should infuse $2 trillion in U.S. infrastructure projects, creating an average of 2.9 million jobs a year for the duration of the programs. The report’s authors warn that the number of currently trained workers is insufficient to handle the demand.

“Everyone is talking about the need for more housing and huge new public works projects across the region, but no one knows where we’re going to actually find enough workers who are trained and qualified to get these projects off the ground,” said Rob Kane, executive vice president of Lincoln Property Co., a major player in the L.A. market. “The need to expedite the process of training skilled workers is abundantly clear.”

Los Angeles County voters, public school parents, and students were surveyed between November 20, 2023, and January 21, 2024. Participating students were recruited through community-based organizations and weighted by gender to reflect an even distribution across female and male students.

Benjamin Trujillo drills a metal frame into his wooden shed project as part of the Port of Los Angeles High School skilled trades summer program in Los Angeles County. (Photo by Ben Gibbs/Harbor Freight Tools for Schools)

Malina Brown

About Harbor Freight Tools for Schools

Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is the flagship program of the Smidt Foundation, established by Harbor Freight Tools owner and founder Eric Smidt, to advance excellent skilled trades education in U.S. public high schools. With a deep respect for the dignity of these fields and for the intelligence and creativity of people who work with their hands, Harbor Freight Tools for Schools aims to drive a greater understanding of and investment in skilled trades education, believing that access to quality skilled trades education gives high school students pathways to graduation, opportunity, good jobs and a workforce our country needs. Harbor Freight Tools is a major supporter of the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools program. For more information, visit:

HARBOR FREIGHT TOOLS FOR SCHOOLS is a registered trademark licensed by The Smidt Foundation.