The United States continues to face an ongoing and critical shortage of skilled workers—frequently called the “skills gap”— to fill rewarding positions with good pay. There are millions of unfilled technical positions available in the US economy. The Manufacturing Institute estimates that, in manufacturing alone, there will be 2.4 million jobs unfilled in 2028. Economists indicate that the skills gap is not merely a temporary demographic event. This is a major long-term problem.
Young people are spending billions of dollars on college education, often settling for a job that does not relate to their degree. As the cost of traditional 4-year colleges and the subsequent student debts continue to increase, the value of that investment will continue to decrease for more students. This model simply won’t help us solve the skills gap. It’s time to try something new.
Our culture has recently been rediscovering the value of manual labor, something the Catholic Church has advocated for centuries. Men have a distinct response to the demands and rewards of manual labor, and Catholic men in particular have the opportunity to integrate labor with their spiritual life.
The Catholic Church has long been teaching about the beauty and value of work and the dignity inherent in the activities to “subdue the Earth” as we are commanded to do. Since Pope Leo XIII’s ground-breaking encyclical, Rerum Novarum, the Church has offered regular and relevant insights into how the faithful can navigate the challenges of the modern world. The Church has been proposing tangible ways for people to grow in holiness through their work, while also striving for new innovations and technology. It is time to unlock the power and beauty of Catholic Social Teaching about work – and to make it accessible and applicable to the person who needs it the most: the tradesman.
The American economy needs entrepreneurs and innovators to remain competitive. But leaders and innovators must work from a strong foundation of principles. The Catholic vision of work, and traditional virtues of hard work, can help launch this new generation of leaders. We think there is a need to form new leaders through this new type of academy that forms the head and hands together.
“A place like this needs to exist because there’s been a separation between faith and work. Combining them here is probably the biggest and most important thing we’ve done. I feel like we’re going to be able to make the world a lot better in the long run, because … the attitude of joy we bring to work —that work is a good thing — it brings more joy to work for everyone.”