Roadtrip Nation: Skill Powered
Program SynopsisFor students all over the country, it can often feel like their educational experiences are steering them toward one common end goal: earning a college degree. But recently, soaring tuition costs have many reevaluating the belief that a four-year degree is the best route toward a fulfilling life.
Simultaneously, the declining popularity of vocational schools combined with a retiring workforce has opened up huge skills gaps in trades from woodworking to cosmetology. With most jobs requiring on-the-job training or certifications rather than four-year degrees, skilled trades hold plenty of promise—but not many young adults have been exposed to their true potential. Roadtrip Nation’s new documentary, “Skill Powered” is on a mission to change that.
“Skill Powered” follows three young adults—Alex, Shyane, and Ryan—as they shadow people across the country who are forging their own ways within their trades. All of the roadtrippers are intrigued by different skill-focused careers, but none of them have a set path planned—yet.
Currently working in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, Ryan is the only roadtripper who already has extensive experience within a trade. But he still has more he wants to accomplish in his field, and hopes that this trip will introduce him to certifications and training programs that can advance him toward his eventual goal of owning his own HVAC company.
After he was sidelined by an injury, roadtripper Alex’s college soccer career ended abruptly. Soon afterwards, he realized that his major wasn’t going to lead him to the job of his dreams. Now he’s searching for what’s next—he recently took an interest in scuba diving, and wants to find a mentor who can help him get the training he needs to pursue a scuba-centric career.
Shyane had plans to attend college, but it hasn’t worked out. Even so, she doesn’t want her lack of a degree to relegate her to a passionless job. She hopes the road trip will show her how others created steady, fulfilling careers through means outside of earning a four-year degree.
Over 24 days and 3,000 miles, the team’s interviews and shared experiences gradually start to reshape what they’d thought about skilled trades. During a visit to Los Angeles Trade–Technical College, welding professor Lisa Legohn teaches the crew about her craft—and shakes up their definitions of “passion.” In Santa Fe, principal contractor and designer Mark Giorgetti inspires Ryan to broaden his horizons and look into LEED certification. And in Oklahoma City, Kimberly Leser, curator of behavioral husbandry and animal welfare at the Oklahoma City Zoo, helps Shyane realize that her love of animals could blossom into a viable career.
In telling the nuanced stories of people powering skilled trades across the country, “Skill Powered” uncovers the skill, precision, and most importantly, passion being put into jobs that had previously been portrayed as “dead-end” or “dirty,”—and proves that there are always infinite ways to build yourself a better life.
From Porter, TX
Shyane is ready to take off in a million directions. But while she’s got the energy to push toward any goal and the resolve to work hard, she knows that what she really needs right now is guidance. All of that drive and curiosity without experience isn’t enough to get her where she wants to go and get her past the financial hardship she grew up with. Right now, her sights are set on working on a cruise ship—but she’s ready for any adventure, even if it means long hours and being away from home. She’s hoping that this trip is the spark she needs to start that journey.
From Torrance, CA
Alexander has been camping since he was a kid, and you can regularly find him spearfishing off the coast of California, where he grew up. Being a camp counselor was the first time he realized that he needed to be outside for a living—but it was also when he realized he didn’t have the training for the jobs he wanted. He has a college degree—but without applied training he’s feeling lost. Working in nature gives him a sense of direction. He wants to meet people working in the outdoors who are happy and supporting their families, to see if it’s a life he could build for himself, too.
From Asheville, NC
Ryan’s parents didn’t work in the trades, but it’s the memory of visiting his dad—stuck in a cubicle at work—that made Ryan certain that he didn’t want to be in an office. He’s been working in HVAC for three years now. He grew up with a love for baseball and football, and his two brothers made sure he turned out tough and ready to handle anything. The three of them want to start their own business together. You don’t need a four-year degree to be successful, he says—he wants to prove that you can live a great life by working in the trades, and he wants his life to be an example.
Roadtrip Nation Skill Powered Featured Interviews and Locations
Los Angeles, CA
- Lisa Legohn
- Master Welder
- Laura Zahn, Founder, Allied Woodshop
- RH LeeShop, Manager, Offerman Woodshop
Las Vegas, NV
- Leticia Nunez, Executive Chef, Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace
- Mike Hall, Head of Musical Instrument Technician Department, Blue Man Group
- Scott Dahl, Head of Audio, Blue Man Group
Santa Fe, NM
- Mark Giorgetti, Principal, Palo Santo Designs
- Peter Page, Owner & President, AMENERGY
Oklahoma City, OK
- Kimberly Leser, Curator of Animal Behavior & Welfare, Oklahoma City Zoo
- Christine Moses, Technical Associate, GE Aviation
- Cedric Hall, Technical Associate, GE Aviation
- Bill Lamp’l, Founder, Grove Scuba
- Nancy Feldman, Wardrobe & Makeup Supervisor, Blue Man Group
Is your station airing Skill Powered? Check out the social kit here: Skill Powered Station Sharing Guide
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Funding for Roadtrip Nation: Skill Powered is made possible by Penn Foster & Strada Education Network
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