Check out what Mike Rowe
has to say about this problem, he has some really great insight.
Now my thoughts: Unfortunately we as a society look down on skilled trades. I remember when I was 16 my dad asked me if I wanted to work with my back or with my brain, implying that there was something wrong with skilled labor. If you show aptitude for math or science in High School your counselor will dissuade you from shop or auto repair and push you into AP math and science with the intent of you going to get a STEM degree. Our public school systems, especially the wealthy ones, almost exclusively push 4 year universities as the only option to graduating seniors.
Furthermore, there are a lot of "help the kids in the inner city" teaching programs where the soul goal is to get kids from impoverished school districts into 4 year colleges. These organizations are doing some good work but I have to strongly disagree that the only or even best way to break the cycle of poverty is to force someone into a 4 year university while completely and intentionally ignoring the many skilled trades that person could pursue. A kid with a apprenticeship in welding or high tech manufacturing is going to be able to change his life in a much more positive way than a kid with a degree in comparative lit and $60,000 in student debt. These programs really need to offer a more complete picture of the options facing graduating high school students.
American culture has promoted the 4 year university as the "only" way to be successful for decades. Blame the liberals, blame the academics, blame the politicians, blame the student loan companies, blame whoever. We have a shortage of skilled labor because we as a nation have treated skilled labors as a lower caste for years.