As school counselors push more students towards acquiring four-year college degrees, fewer young people are considering the trades as viable career options. NPR recently reported that the application rate for young people applying for technical jobs decreased nearly 50 percent in 2022 compared to 2020.
Skilled, a new docuseries from 3M, is looking to change those statistics by celebrating the trades and the skilled laborers who do the work every day.
Viewers will meet four skilled laborers:
Paige - a 20-year-old plumber who hosts an all-girls construction summer camp
Andrea - a 3M fall protection specialist
Cedric - a master welder
Anni - a film gaffer at Amazonas Electricas, an all-female grip and electrical team working to diversify Mexico’s film industry
The four subjects share their personal stories of getting into the trades and how their lives have changed for the better since finding their professions.
Skilled was screened on January 22 at a private Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, hosted by actress, director and philanthropist Vivica A. Fox.
“I’m honored to host our first screening of Skilled. I have my own personal connections to those who work in the trades, as my oldest brother became a skilled worker after leaving the army, and my niece has held various skilled labor positions. It is truly a pleasure to help showcase these subjects’ personal journeys through this beautiful film,” she said.
The Root spoke exclusively with Vivica A. Fox about the film and how she hopes it will inspire more young people to consider careers in the trades.
An avid supporter of women’s issues, Fox says she was drawn to the project that highlights so many women in skilled labor positions, something you don’t often see. “We’ve been working so hard to get equal pay and visibility for women for such a long time. So when Skilled came into my lap, it was about me supporting women,” she said. “When Regina King won her Oscar, she challenged crews to make sure that 50 percent of their staff were women, so it really makes me happy to see women behind the cameras getting to be gaffers and electricians.”
Fox hopes the diverse representation in the film will change the perception of the trades as a fallback and allow young people to see that a four-year college degree doesn’t have to be their only path to success.
“I believe that college just isn’t for everyone, and we should let people have their choice,” she said. “There are so many misconceptions about skilled trades and we just want to help to show women that they can do anything.”
And she warns those who aren’t ready to see women behind the scenes on film sets and operating fork lifts to get out of the way of progress. “Back in the day, they put women in boxes. And we’re just busting up out of them. We can do anything from Vice President of the United States to a Supreme Court Justice,” she says. “It’s a new day, so ya’ll better get used to it.”
3M hopes Skilled will help eliminate some of the misperceptions around the skilled trades and introduce viewers to the wide variety of career opportunities available. “Skilled workers are vital to our global communities and economies. Because access to education and opportunity remains inequitable, we are focused on sharing ‘Skilled’ in classrooms and advancing our global commitment to create 5 million unique skilled trades and STEM learning experiences for underrepresented individuals by the end of 2025,” said James Momon, 3M’s chief equity officer in a statement.
Fox says she hopes people who watch Skilled will leave feeling inspired and empowered to go after a career in the trades. “It’s definitely a feel-good documentary where you’re going to be educated, inspired and uplifted,” she said.
Skilled will be released wide on VOD in Spring 2023.