When I was growing up, every educator spouted the same mantra as my parents: “If you want to live a good life, you need to go to college,” they’d say. We were even told that it doesn’t matter what we got a degree in, just as long as we got one.
However, today 70 percent of college graduates leave school with at least some debt, and the average debt is just a hair under $30,000. Further, many graduates report difficulty in finding a job — particularly those who majored in fields with few opportunities. While a bachelor’s in philosophy or English lit perhaps offered possibilities in the past, those days are clearly over.
Today, as even the left-leaning PBS reports, technical education is a smart alternative to traditional college.
“Skilled trades show among the highest potential among job categories, the economic-modeling company Emsi calculates. … It says tradespeople also are older than workers in other fields — more than half were over 45 in 2012, the last period for which the subject was studied — meaning looming retirements could result in big shortages.”
Anyone with half a brain knows that labor shortages mean higher wages for workers. And these are fields that have always paid well.
“The United States has 30 million jobs that pay an average of $55,000 per year and don’t require a bachelor’s degree, according to the Georgetown center,” writer Matt Krupnick notes. “People with career and technical educations are actually slightly more likely to be employed than their counterparts with academic credentials, the U.S. Department of Education reports, and significantly more likely to be working in their fields of study.”
The decades of pushing everyone towards college were foolish. We now have a generation of students with crippling debt and no appreciable skills, and a shortage of skilled workers in good-paying jobs.
Why? Frankly, because the culture painted those who opted for trade school as losers. In fact, I recall hearing exactly that sentiment being expressed by my peers and my parents. They were wrong.
If educators coupled an appreciation of vocational training with an emphasis on post-high school education being about self-sufficiency, imagine how our nation would thrive. Many students who don’t thrive in traditional education would stop feeling obligated to follow the wrong path for them.
Let’s be honest: if PBS finally gets it, then most others already have.