Inside: Traditional college is not for everyone. Here are six compelling reasons to consider trade school for teens.
When seniors graduate from high school, it feels like everyone’s first question is, “What college are you going to?”
But college isn’t for everyone, and it’s time our society started elevating the idea of trade schools. While aiming for that four-year degree has grown to be the norm, earning a bachelor’s does not always guarantee success.
In the same breath, one can be successful if they don’t earn that degree.
There was a time when vocational schools were reserved for people who couldn’t cut it in “real” school, but that stigma no longer makes sense. The rising cost of college, a skilled labor shortage, and the desire to pursue careers that give us flexibility and purpose, trade schools are a viable and responsible option for many students.
Trade schools for teens are not an easy way out
When I was a composition instructor at a local community college in Michigan, I had several trade students sitting at the desks in front of me. Some of these students were in the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) or carpentry programs, and some were in automotive. I also had students attending cosmetology or culinary arts centers but were in my class because they also wanted to earn an associate’s degree in business so that someday they could own their own.
These students were not inferior compared to the more traditional students in my classroom. Quite the contrary. They were focused on their career goals and almost always came to class ready to crush their dreams.
It’s time to stop pushing all students to go to college
The pressure on high schoolers is far too great. Not all students are the same, and it’s time we stopped treating them like they are.
What’s more important is that we encourage our teens to find their way by allowing them to follow their own passions and dreams. If your child finds the right trade school, they could be provided with a journey that focuses directly on the training and skills they’ll need to be successful–and more importantly–happy–in a specific job.
Here are six compelling reasons you and your teenager should consider a trade school.
Trade jobs are in high demand right now. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 8 million skilled-labor jobs were lost from the labor force during the pandemic. About half have been filled, but about 4 million vacancies remain in industries responsible for most transportation, construction, and mechanical needs nationwide. So, if your child likes to work with their hands or in the outdoors, let them run with it. When we had a flood in our basement last year, we had to wait for what seemed like forever just to find an electrician and plumber to come do our repairs (which weren’t cheap, by the way). And according to Live Career, the growth and demand in trade careers is only going to continue to rise.
Cost of College
The cost of colleges in the US continues to soar, and it’s no secret that college graduates are leaving schools with piling debt. In fact, according to Education Data Initiative, the average student loan debt per college student nationally is $36,406. So, parents and teens alike should take the time to analyze the cost of four-year universities compared to trade schools—especially if they know what they want to do for their careers.
According to the Center for Employment Training, the difference is $33,000 for those who graduate from a trade school compared to the average of $132,000 for those who finish with a bachelor’s degree. So, the pricey cost of college alone is one reason to consider looking at an alternative post-high school.
A well-rounded education is great for many students, but for some, getting through British Literature or Geology is a struggle. Trade schools for teens can provide a more direct path to a career by cutting out some of the extraneous classes required by other four-year institutions. If you have a student that knows what they are interested in doing for a job, a vocational school can be great as you know that every class is contributing to your future career.
Make Good Money, And Sooner
According to Live Career, after students complete a specific career training program, like HVAC, they can start earning at least $40,000 annually. Other jobs, such as a dental hygenist, electrician, or IT technician, can make even more. Therefore, not only are these students earning a solid income, but they’re doing it sooner than their counterparts at a big university.
These careers are also often recession-proof, so it could be a viable opportunity during tough economic times.
Follow Their Passion
Some kids just know what their passion is, and while traditional thinking has us believing that a four-year degree is more stable and attractive, for many jobs this isn’t the case. If your teen has a passion for something such as food, cosmetology, graphic design, or craftsmanship, a four-year degree may not be the way to go.
Instead, consider trade schools that combine learning their craft and the business and soft skills to be successful in their market. Additionally, doing what you love often leads to being more successful in all aspects of life (see next point.)
Mental Health & Happiness
It’s no secret that the rigor and high pressure of college can feel stressful to some students, and the college admissions process is not an enjoyable experience for anyone. Pursuing a vocational career can give many young people the flexibility and work-life balance we crave, in addition to steady employment.
Additionally, trade schools for teens who struggled in high school can give them a sense of purpose that they could not find previously. For a kid struggling to find their place in the world, a vocation can give them the direction they crave.
We need to change the dialogue about trade schools for teens
There is still some negative stigma and misconceptions about trade and technical skills despite the positive job market statistics for these sorts of careers. The U.S. specifically has pushed a college-for-all mentality that makes many parents unsure of this different path for their kids, but the truth is, a vocational job could be perfectly suited for your child.
There is no one path to success. Instead, we should encourage our teens to pursue careers that will both make them productive, self-sufficient members of society and content with their choices.
The students in my composition classes who were in various trade programs knew what they wanted. They weren’t sitting there with an empty bubble hanging over their heads. They were mature enough to trust themselves and to understand that the traditional route just wasn’t for them.
For some, a four-year college makes perfect sense, but if you have a teen who wants something different, it might be the time to start letting them go with their gut.
It’s okay if they choose something their friends aren’t. In fact, it might just turn out to be the best decision they’ve ever made.