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Alternative Sucess Path: Trade School


eddieMany of us grew up with the assumption that if you went to college, you could land a job with a corporation and  live well until retirement.   That was etched into the American landscape after WWII, when so many young men went to college on the GI Bill, and made America great.

The question is: does that paradigm still work?  My suggestion is, in many cases, “no.”

In 2011, a number of underemployed lawyers filed class action lawsuits against several law schools, alleging the schools had misrepresented employment and salary prospects.  The graduates charged the schools had knowingly painted a more rosy picture of how much money they would make than was in fact the case.

Some of those cases are still going on, although in general, the lower courts have taken a dim view of their claims.  Similar charges could be made against almost all colleges and Universities that lead students to believe a particular degree will result in a good salary.

All of us know college grads that are either unemployed, or working in fields that do not require a college degree.  Per the Huffington Post, college costs have increased 12 fold over the past 30 years, far outpacing the rest of the economy.  This is, in my opinion,  inexcusable. It has been driven by a number of factors, among them a lack of accountability, and easy access to federally backed student loans.  Loans for studies that are very unlikely to result in a successful career. It is to the shame of political leaders and educators this hasn’t been aggressively addressed.

Students that acquire loans to finance college owe an average of $27,000 upon graduation. That’s an average, many owe much more.  One in 10 will default on the loan.  That’s a huge debt load for a young person starting life, especially if they can’t find suitable employment.

Mike Rowe, the host of Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” says that “in reality, a four year degree won’t make you successful any more than a gym membership will make you healthy.”

Rowe says that less than 12 percent of all jobs require a four year degree.  He thinks the country needs to stop selling the notion that “higher” education is superior to alternates, such as Trade Schools.

And, there is a big demand for skilled trades, and that demand is only going to increase as older tradesmen retire.   And per the research, job satisfaction among trade workers, is every bit as high, and often higher, than white collar jobs.

The economics used to strongly favor white collar jobs, but no more.  Experienced tradesmen can make six figure incomes, and they rarely graduate trade school owing any money.

As an entrepreneur, I take this a step further.  An experienced tradesman, that learns the business of his trade, as well as the skills, can open his own business and enjoy an income level comparable to a successful attorney.

This isn’t to denigrate a college education.  In fact, education is in my mind, a value unto itself, completely aside from career earnings.

I do think however, that parents and students should consider Trade Schools along with college.  And who is to say, that you can’t learn a trade skill, begin earning a good living, and THEN pursue a standard four year degree.?

In fact, that’s exactly what I did.  Wise people consider the times, and consider the options.  Be wise.