The skilled trades have not become irrelevant as society grows in technical sophistication, nor will they, but there is going to be a shortage of skilled trades workers if we don't do something about it. High school curricula and guidance counselors push college as the future of choice for students; however, it is not the only route to professional success. I had two fathers involved in racing (both were mechanics) and so was my brother, but I never got involved...and I wish that I had. I wish that I had learned to build racecars, engines, transmissions, rear-ends, etc., but I was too involved with football and other not so healthy endeavors. I took shop classes, but I sucked at them, thus never tried to become proficient (FYI - you always suck when you first try something).
Getting back to the trades, we need to start following the lead of Mike Rowe and re-emphasize the skilled trades in schools and trade schools and apprenticeships after high school. I am a proponent of having degree programs that integrate professional programs with trades. For example, combine a computer-aided machining trade with mechanical engineering or combine carpentry with architecture. I want to partner with the states' boards of higher education and colleges and universities to make this a reality.