Monday, January 22, 2018 | ePaper

Consider trade school

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Joanna Hughes :
While the college track is right for many post-secondary students, others choose a different direction: Trade school. Also known as "technical" or "vocational" school, these educational institutions teach skills directly related to specific careers, including everything from automotive technology specialists to electricians.
Wondering whether trade school is right for you? Read on for a roundup of five reasons why trade school may be the best route to your goals.
1.    You'll get the training you need to secure a highly-skilled, in-demand job.
Unlike conventional colleges and universities which may offer core curricula consisting of liberal arts, English and history coursework, trade school focus entirely on helping students learn a skilled trade. Between classroom knowledge and hands-on training, trade schools provide the necessary instruction and training to enable students to hit the ground running in their chosen fields. They may also offer job placement assistance to graduates by matching local employers with qualified workers.
A different way to think of it? While the point of college is widely debated and somewhat mercurial, the point of trade school is much more direct and concrete: to prepare graduates for specific careers.
2.    It's shorter and less expensive than college.
Attending a four-year college is a commitment, both in terms of time and money. While this can lead to payoffs in the future, it can also lead to unnecessary debt, depending on your goals. Factor in that college work is rigorous with high dropout rates, and the reality is that many college attendees don't become college graduates-the key to higher earning potential. Others take significantly longer to graduate, incurring more expenses and lost wages along the way. Still others graduate and struggle to find jobs in sluggish labor markets.
The takeaway? If you're interested in the most direct path to a job, and if sharing your expertise as a skilled tradesperson seems like something you'd enjoy, then spending two years in trade school-and paying significantly less in tuition fees-may be a smart decision.
3.    The class sizes are usually smaller.
Depending on the four-year university you attend, classes can be massive and impersonal. Many students find that this approach fails to meet their preferred learning styles. Conversely, trade school classes are typically much smaller, meaning you'll have more opportunities for interacting with your peers and professors. In trade school, you don't have to worry about being just another face in the crowd. Plus, because you're all studying the same specialized field, you know you'll have a lot in common with your classmates.
4.    You can be assured you'll have the most applicable skills for your chosen career.
Trade schools follow certified and nationally recognized curricula. As a result, the education you receive will be optimally structured and targeted to the profession you're studying. Meanwhile, those who skip trade school in order to directly enter the workforce are limited to both their coworkers' knowledge and types of jobs that are available.
While good mentors are invaluable for the supplemental wisdom they offer, they're not trained teachers. This may lead to inefficient learning and gaps in your knowledge. If your goal is to learn everything you need to know, trade school offers powerful assurance.
5.    You'll enjoy exceptional job security.
Even more incentive to consider trade school? Many programs cater to jobs which are especially in demand, such as electricians, machinists, and HVAC experts. According to Adecco Staffing, demand will continue to skyrocket in the years ahead, partly because of the aging of the baby boomer generation, and the job force vacancies they're leaving behind as they enter retirement. In fact, a whopping 74 percent of firms predict a shortfall of qualified skilled trade workers, according to a survey from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). Part of the solution, according to Adecco? Encouraging more attendance in trade school where students will acquire the trade-specific skills they need to make up the impending shortfall.
While college may seem like the natural path for today's high school grads, the reality is that there are alternative pathways out there. Taking time to consider all of your options-and how each aligns with your unique interests, needs and goals-can help you make the most informed and beneficial decision.

(Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family).

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