By Robbie Owens

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NORTH TEXAS (CBS11) – Just call it ‘shirt collar’ economics.

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Local education and economic experts say so much emphasis has been placed on four-year college degrees in recent years, that skilled trades have been overlooked. Now, many of those so called ‘blue collar’ careers are raking in the cash.

“Dirt is where the money’s at,” said Ron Henderson with a laugh. Indeed. Henderson is a long time welding instructor at Dallas County Community College’s Mountain View campus.

Ron Henderson - welder (CBS11)

Ron Henderson – welder (CBS11)

He said demand and earning potential for his students is high. “All of us old guys are gone,” says Henderson. “So the ones that are smart enough to come and get this trade, go and get that money!”

And it’s not just welding.

“I knew from the git go that college wasn’t for me,” said plumber Chace Butcher, while working on a job in Rockwall recently.

“I’m good with my hands,” said Butcher. “You couldn’t pay me six figures to sit in a cubicle and answer phones and do that. I’d go nuts.”

Yet, like most of us, he wanted a good living and took an unexpected path to get there.

Butcher said he never planned to own his own business, but now he does.

“Plumbing never crossed my mind,” said Butcher, owner of CSB Plumbing. “The more I started to think about it– no matter what the economy does, you’re always going to need something fixed and it’s not something that a robot or anything else can take away from us.”

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Chace Butcher - plumber (CBS11)

Chace Butcher – plumber (CBS11)

Butcher is now a licensed master plumber: a status earned with lots of hard work, but no college required. His hourly rate is $125.

“The old saying goes, if I can stay busy, 40 hours a week, roughly figure about a thousand dollars a day on 8 hours a day, so you can do the math,” said Butcher.

Of course, he’s not with clients every hour. But while you’re calculating, consider this: According to the 2015 National Financial Capability Study, student loan debt in the United States has stopped $1.3 trillion. So many experts are encouraging would-be students to consider all options for successful careers.

“Whether it’s to have your automatic transmission fixed or whether you have a plumbing leak, a lot of the stuff we’re talking about people are getting paid $100,000 to $150,000 because they’re worth it,” said Mike Davis, as economist at SMU’s Cox School of Business. He says certain careers will always require a four-year degree, but he blames misinformation for a mindset that overlooks other options.

“Manufacturing never left the U.S.” insists Davis. “There’s this myth that somehow all the jobs went to China or Mexico or wherever, that didn’t happen: we continued to manufacture in this country, in fact, we got really good at it.”

So much so, that the technical know-how that now supports manufacturing can net skilled, experienced workers six-figure salaries. High earning careers also include welding, construction management and automotive repair.

“We need a lot of people who can fix things and set up computers and do all the sorts of very skilled activities that modern manufacturing requires,” said Davis.

“Jobs are going unfilled at the same time people would love to have those jobs,” said Chancellor Joe May of the Dallas County Community College District. “We just are not able to bring those two together.”

But for those that do, the rewards are waiting in dollars, cents and lots of zeroes.

However, skills and training are key.  Watch:

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