At this biannual "skills Olympics," 1,000 young people from 50 countries will compete in hands-on categories from stonemasonry to floristry. As 16 American students get ready to show off their skills, we prep you on a few of the industries behind this year's popular events.
Online commerce be damned. A growing population means more brick-and-mortar buildings; U.S. jobs for bricklayers are expected to grow 12% between 2008 and 2018. A surprising career that has also emerged: brick thief. While scavengers have long stripped abandoned homes of copper and aluminum, brick rustling—usually accompanied by arson—is now plaguing cities hard-hit by the recession, including St. Louis and Cleveland.
2. Visual Merchandising
Urban department stores spend millions each year on window displays, hoping to intrigue shoppers (and sell, sell, sell!). Windows at Bergdorf Goodman, a $550 lush tome, spans 15 years of window art created by experts David Hoey and Linda Fargo (their most famous display: a mannequin so covetous of handbags, her arm stretched out 15 feet in length to wear 26 at once). As Hoey often says, "We take our frivolity very seriously."
Robots may be gaining ground on traditional welders, but for true job security, metalsmiths head to the edges of safety: sea and space. Underwater welders dive to melt and marry metals of ships and offshore oil tanks, while others are training astronauts to repair spaceships mid-orbit. At least one California prison is now teaching inmates underwater welding, hoping the in-demand job skill they receive will lessen recidivism rates.
4. Pastry Cook
Your basil crème brûlée may win accolades at this competition, but lades at this competition, but maybe it's best to keep your knowledge of macaroon fillings and beer-flavored desserts on your blog. Thanks to shows like Ace of Cakes (and a lingering recession), enrollment in pastry courses nationwide has exploded. Yet graduates of culinary programs are more than twice as likely to default on their student loans than other trade-school graduates. And job prospects? Not too sweet.
5. Beauty Therapy
Hundred-dollar massages don’t translate to high wages for spa workers: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, massage therapists in the U.S. make $17 an hour (unless they’re in massage-starved Alaska, where they pull in $41 on average). Yet business is booming. Jobs are expected to grow 20% from 2008 to 2018. A bonus: Nearly half of these workers are self-employed, and in a study by Gallup-Healthways, business owners are the happiest professionals.
A version of this article appeared in the October 2011 issue of Fast Company magazine.